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Human Embryonic Stem Cell-derived Lung Organoids: a Model for SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Drug Test

By Rongjuan Pei, Jianqi Feng, Yecheng Zhang, Hao Sun, Lian Li, Xuejie Yang, Jiangping He, Shuqi Xiao, Jin Xiong, Ying Lin, Kun Wen, Hongwei Zhou, Jiekai Chen, Zhili Rong, Xinwen Chen

Posted 10 Aug 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.10.244350

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is caused by infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is spread primary via respiratory droplets and infects the lungs. Currently widely used cell lines and animals are unable to accurately mimic human physiological conditions because of the abnormal status of cell lines (transformed or cancer cells) and species differences between animals and humans. Organoids are stem cell-derived self-organized three-dimensional culture in vitro and model the physiological conditions of natural organs. Here we demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 infected and extensively replicated in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs)-derived lung organoids, including airway and alveolar organoids. Ciliated cells, alveolar type 2 (AT2) cells and rare club cells were virus target cells. Electron microscopy captured typical replication, assembly and release ultrastructures and revealed the presence of viruses within lamellar bodies in AT2 cells. Virus infection induced more severe cell death in alveolar organoids than in airway organoids. Additionally, RNA-seq revealed early cell response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and an unexpected downregulation of ACE2 mRNA. Further, compared to the transmembrane protease, serine 2 (TMPRSS2) inhibitor camostat, the nucleotide analog prodrug Remdesivir potently inhibited SARS-CoV-2 replication in lung organoids. Therefore, human lung organoids can serve as a pathophysiological model for SARS-CoV-2 infection and drug discovery. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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