Probing effects of additives on the filterability of oncolytic viruses via a microfiltration process


One major part of therapeutic oncolytic viruses (OV) manufacturing is a membrane-based process with a major challenge of membrane fouling and consequent product loss. A small-scale microfiltration setup was developed, allowing online transmembrane pressure (TMP) measurement through a constant flux filtration using a low volume of a representative OV solution (< 3 mL). Using this setup, the effects of different additives including various proteins (bovine serum albumin and alpha-lactalbumin) and organic polymers (polyethylene glycol and polyvinylpyrrolidone) on microfiltration of the OV solution were screened. Results demonstrated that examined proteins significantly decreased membrane fouling rates and increased the virus recoveries. An addition of 5% bovine serum albumin (BSA) to the virus solution increased the virus recovery about 6-times compared to microfiltration of the virus solution without any additive. In contrast, none of the organic polymers could imitate effects of the protein additives. In a separate set of experiment, to study effect of protein on the membrane surface, the membrane surface was pre-blocked using a BSA protein solution and then subsequently utilized to filter the virus solution. This result also demonstrated a significant increase in virus recovery through the blocked membrane, about 4-times higher virus recovery compared to a non-blocked membrane.

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As of 10 December 2021, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) caused by SARS‐CoV‐2 accounted for 267 million people with up to 5.3 million deaths worldwide ( Since late 2019, much progress has been made in response to the COVID‐19 pandemic, including the rapid developments of effective vaccines and the treatment guidelines consisting of antiviral drugs, immunomodulators, and critical care support ( However, SARS‐CoV‐2 evolves over time as its genome has a high mutation rate that leads to reasonable concerns of breakthrough infection due to immune escape and resistant strain emergence under antiviral pressure (Lipsitch et al., 2021; Szemiel et al., 2021). A newly emerging Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant rings alarms around the globe that, perhaps, the COVID‐19 war has just begun. Relentless efforts should be made to advance our knowledge and treatment regimens against COVID‐19. These included studies of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy that aimed to mitigate cytokine storm and promote tissue repair in severely ill patients with COVID‐19 pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) (Hashemian et al., 2021; Meng et al., 2020; Zhu et al., 2021). Nevertheless, as extensively discussed in a recent review by Dr. Phillip W. Askenase of Yale University School of Medicine, the immunomodulatory and regenerative effects of MSC therapy are mediated through MSC‐derived extracellular vesicles (MSC‐EVs) (Askenase, 2020), while the use of MSC‐EVs has less safety concerns of thromboembolism, arrhythmia and malignant transformation. In this direction, MSC‐EV investigations for COVID‐19 treatment would be more appealing and undeniable if MSC‐EVs also exhibit anti‐SARS‐CoV‐2 effects. A previous study revealed that MSC‐EVs pertained antiviral activity against influenza virus in a preclinical model (Khatri et al., 2018). It is known that MSCs are highly resistant to viral infections (Wu et al., 2018), including SARS‐CoV‐2 (Avanzini et al., 2021). We, therefore, hypothesized that the EVs released from MSCs could inhibit SARS‐CoV‐2 infection.

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