Background During the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Italian hospitals faced the most daunting challenges of their recent history, and only essential therapeutic interventions were feasible. From March to April 2020, the Laboratory of Advanced Cellular Therapies (Vicenza, Italy) received requests to treat a patient with severe COVID-19 and a patient with acute graft-versus-host disease with umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (UC-MSCs). Access to clinics was restricted due to the risk of contagion. Transport of UC-MSCs in liquid nitrogen was unmanageable, leaving shipment in dry ice as the only option. Methods We assessed effects of the transition from liquid nitrogen to dry ice on cell viability; apoptosis; phenotype; proliferation; immunomodulation; and clonogenesis; and validated dry ice-based transport of UC-MSCs to clinics. Results Our results showed no differences in cell functionality related to the two storage conditions, and demonstrated the preservation of immunomodulatory and clonogenic potentials in dry ice. UC-MSCs were successfully delivered to points-of-care, enabling favourable clinical outcomes. Conclusions This experience underscores the flexibility of a public cell factory in its adaptation of the logistics of an advanced therapy medicinal product during a public health crisis. Alternative supply chains should be evaluated for other cell products to guarantee delivery during catastrophes.
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