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Ethical issues and public communication in the development of cell-based treatments for COVID-19: Lessons from the pandemic.


The significant morbidity and mortality of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) prompted a global race to develop new therapies. These include interventions using cell- or cell-derived products, several of which are being tested in well-designed, properly controlled clinical trials. Yet, the search for cell-based COVID-19 treatments has also been fraught with hyperbolic claims; flouting of crucial regulatory, scientific, and ethical norms; and distorted communication of research findings. In this paper, we critically examine ethical issues and public communication challenges related to the development of cell-based therapeutics for COVID-19. Drawing on the lessons learned from this ongoing process, we argue against the rushed development of cell-based interventions. We conclude by outlining ways to improve the ethical conduct of cell-based clinical investigations and public communication of therapeutic claims.

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