Combined meta-analysis of preclinical cell therapy studies shows overlapping effect modifiers for multiple diseases

Peter-Paul Zwetsloot, Ana Antonic-Baker, Hendrik Gremmels, Kimberley Wever, Chris Sena, Sanne Jansen of Lorkeers, Steven Chamuleau, Joost Sluijter, David W Howells

Published: 19 April 2021


Introduction Cell therapy has been studied in many different research domains. Cellular replacement of damaged solid tissues is at an early stage of development, with much still to be understood. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are widely used to aggregate data and find important patterns of results within research domains.

We set out to find common biological denominators affecting efficacy in preclinical cell therapy studies for renal, neurological and cardiac disease.

Methods We used datasets of five previously published meta-analyses investigating cell therapy in preclinical models of chronic kidney disease, spinal cord injury, stroke and ischaemic heart disease. We transformed primary outcomes to ratios of means to permit direct comparison across disease areas. Prespecified variables of interest were species, immunosuppression, cell type, cell origin, dose, delivery and timing of the cell therapy.

Results The five datasets from 506 publications yielded data from 13 638 animals. Animal size affects therapeutic efficacy in an inverse manner. Cell type influenced efficacy in multiple datasets differently, with no clear trend for specific cell types being superior. Immunosuppression showed a negative effect in spinal cord injury and a positive effect in cardiac ischaemic models. There was a dose–dependent relationship across the different models. Pretreatment seems to be superior compared with administration after the onset of disease.

Conclusions Preclinical cell therapy studies are affected by multiple variables, including species, immunosuppression, dose and treatment timing. These data are important when designing preclinical studies before commencing clinical trials.

Full Access Link: BMJ Open Science