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CAR Macrophages for SARS-CoV-2 Immunotherapy

By Wenyan Fu, Changhai Lei, Kewen Qian, Zetong Ma, Tian Li, Fangxin Lin, Wei Zhang, Jian Zhao, Shi Hu

Posted 27 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.26.222208

Targeted therapeutics for the treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), especially severe cases, are currently lacking. As macrophages have unique effector functions as a first-line defense against invading pathogens, we genetically armed human macrophages with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to reprogram their phagocytic activity against SARS-CoV-2. After investigation of CAR constructs with different intracellular receptor domains, we found that although cytosolic domains from MERTK (CARMERTK) did not trigger antigen-specific cellular phagocytosis or killing effects, unlike those from MEGF10, FcRγ and CD3ζ did, these CARs all mediated similar SARS-CoV-2 clearance in vitro. Notably, we showed that CARMERTK macrophages reduced the virion load without upregulation of proinflammatory cytokine expression. These results suggest that CARMERTK drives an ‘immunologically silent’ scavenger effect in macrophages and pave the way for further investigation of CARs for the treatment of individuals with COVID-19, particularly those with severe cases at a high risk of hyperinflammation. ### Competing Interest Statement Competing Interests: the authors declare the following competing interests: J.Z. is a shareholder at KOCHKOR Biotech, Inc., Shanghai. W.F., J.Z. and S.H. are inventors on intellectual property related to this work. No potential conflicts of interest were disclosed by the other authors.

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