COVID-19 Serology Assays and Cell Therapy Strategies

June 20, 2020

COVID-19 Serology Assays and Cell Therapy Strategies

COVID-19 is a highly pathogenic disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). We have assembled a panel of experts to discuss a variety of current strategies for both serological testing and cell therapies to combat tissue damage caused by COVID-19.

Part 1. Serological assays

Serological assays are blood-based tests that have proven to be critical in understanding whether people have been exposed to a pathogen by looking at their immune response. This has been particularly helpful in quantifying the number of COVID-19 cases, including those that may be asymptomatic or have recovered. Here we describe a serological assay established by the lab of Dr. Florian Krammer of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to detect seroconversion to SARS-CoV-2 in humans. Using this assay, we can assess if people have antibodies against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.
• The assay has demonstrated high specificity and high sensitivity and has received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
• Dr. Krammer’s lab has also assessed if antibodies in human serum play a functional role, such as neutralization of the virus and have observed that high titers of antibody in human serum correlate with high neutralizing activity in vitro against live SARS-CoV-2.

Part 2. Cell therapies

A growing number of clinical studies are underway to investigate the roles of cell therapy, particularly using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and natural killer (NK) cells, to address the damage caused by COVID-19.
• Studies show that immunomodulatory and reparative properties of MSCs could reduce mortality rate by reversing acute inflammation of lungs, inhibiting over-activation of immune cells, protecting lung alveoli epithelial cells, promoting tissue repair, preventing pulmonary fibrosis, or improving lung function.  
• NK cell therapy may restore the quantitative and qualitative NK cell defect associated with SARS-CoV-2 and slow the progression of severe COVID-19 disease in high-risk individuals by improving direct recognition of infected cells, suppressing viral propagation, and promoting adaptive immune responses.

Learning Objectives:
* Understand the importance of serology testing in seeing the full impact of the COVID-19 disease in a population
* Understand the role antibodies in human serum play in neutralizing against live SARS-CoV-2
* Identify cell therapy strategies to combat tissue damage caused by COVID-19 disease
* Summarize the main challenges facing clinical investigation into cell therapy for COVID-19