The immune system response triggered by Covid-19, causing an overproduction of cytokines, has been big news during the pandemic.
While Covid-19 deaths are usually caused by acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), especially in older adults and those with co-morbidities, some younger Covid-19 patients have suffered severe symptoms because of an overreaction by their immune systems, rather than the virus itself.
Now, a new clinical trial will test a treatment that targets this immune response, according to a press release from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The mechanism behind the cytokine storm
According to leading immunologists in Japan, a molecular mechanism could lead to possible ways to treat this overreaction by the immune system. The research was published in the journal Immunity.
The immune system response to the coronavirus may lead to ARDS, causing patients to struggle for oxygen in their inflamed, fluid-filled lungs.
"To rescue the patients from this condition, it is vital to understand how SARS-CoV-2 triggers the cytokine storm that leads to ARDS," stated Masaaki Murakami, the head of the immunology laboratory at Hokkaido University's Institute for Genetic Medicine.
His study suggested that the novel coronavirusenters human cells by attaching to the ACE2 surface receptor. Then, a human enzyme called TMPRSS2 is utilised.
"Drugs that block the ACE2 receptor or that inhibit the enzyme could help treat the initial stages of the disease," says Murakami. "However, ARDS with cytokine storm starts to appear in the later phase of infection even when the numbers of the virus decrease. So, there must be another pathway that causes the cytokine storm, Murakami explained in a news statement.
Closer to a treatment?
The treatment that will be tested in a clinical trial by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute involves a common type of alpha-blocker. Through mouse studies, the team determined that this drug might break the hyperinflammation before it causes the severe symptoms seen in Covid-19 patients.
"The approach we're advocating involves treating people who are at high risk early in the course of the disease, when you know they're infected but before they have severe symptoms. If the trial's results suggest the drug is safe and effective against Covid-19, it could potentially help many people recover safely at home and lessen the strain on hospital resources, stated Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Bert Vogelstein.
Together with his team at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Vogelstein is currently recruiting patients aged 45 to 85 at the John Hopkins Hospital to participate in the trial. The prerequisites are that they have to be hospitalised, but not ventilated or in ICU.
How will an alpha blocker stop the cytokine storm?
A hyperactive immune system isnt a new response solely seen in Covid-19. Usually, this type of response is seen in people already suffering from autoimmune diseases or cancer.
What happens during a cytokine storm is that cells called macrophages, which are either found in the tissues or in the blood as white blood cells, are activated to detect and fight the pathogen. As soon as this happens, cytokines are released to help the body fight off the intruder.
Unfortunately, the macrophages dont only release cytokines, but also molecules called catecholamines, which trigger the immune system to release even more cytokines.
According to the news release, Vogelsteins team was already investigating how this reaction in cancer patients could be halted with immunotherapy.
They then looked at alpha-blockers which are usually prescribed for prostate conditions and high blood pressure. This medication is meant to help curb the cells that trigger cytokine storms.
The initial research in mice was published in the journal Nature in 2018.
How likely is this method to be successful?
While alpha-blockers were already approved for human use, Vogelsteins team needed to look at medical claims data to see how patients with pneumonia and ARDS responded to alpha-blockers for unrelated conditions.
The conclusion was that the use of alpha-blockers were correlated to lower death risk, but this simply wasnt enough evidence for a new condition such as Covid-19.
Now, the patients on trial will take increasing doses of an alpha-blocker over six days. The team will then evaluate whether those patients had lower risk of ICU admission and being placed on ventilators.
A second trial will be needed to establish whether this approach is safe and effective. According to Vogelstein, this method may be great for helping to mitigate symptoms before they become severe and deadly.
"Eventually, hopefully, a vaccine will be produced, and that will be the essence of prevention," he stated. "But until vaccines are available, secondary prevention makes a lot of sense."
Image credit: Getty Images
- Myriad Announces Partnership with OptraHEALTH to Deliver Gene a New AI Based Information Tool for Hereditary Cancer Patients - BioSpace - July 6th, 2020
- Children's National Medical Center and AWS partner for genome project targeting COVID-19 - SiliconANGLE - July 6th, 2020
- Sarepta Therapeutics Announces Retirement of Sandy Mahatme, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Business Officer - BioSpace - July 6th, 2020
- Movers & Shakers, July 3 | BioSpace - BioSpace - July 6th, 2020
- The Future of Medicine Is Bespoke - Fair Observer - July 6th, 2020
- July: Genome sequencing rare diseases | News and features - University of Bristol - July 6th, 2020
- Dropping Race-Based eGFR Adjustment Gains Traction in US - Medscape - July 6th, 2020
- A New Generation of Coronavirus Tests Is Coming. Here's What to Expect. - The New York Times - July 6th, 2020
- Fine-tuning brain activity reverses memory problems in mice with autism mutation - Spectrum - July 6th, 2020
- Male fruit flies' decline in fertility with age is not only driven by changes in sperm - Mirage News - July 6th, 2020
- In the Future, Lab Mice Will Live in Computer Chips, Not Cages - Medscape - July 6th, 2020
- For cancer treatment and more, genetic-based precision medicine holds a lot of promise - Connecticut Magazine - May 31st, 2020
- Drug factories: GMOs and gene editing are poised to transform medicine. Here's how. - Genetic Literacy Project - May 31st, 2020
- How to know your risk factors for hypertension and whether high blood pressure is genetic - Insider - INSIDER - May 31st, 2020
- Venture capital found its footing in biotech. Then came the virus. - BioPharma Dive - May 31st, 2020
- Israeli Lab: Drugs For Gaucher Disease May Work Against Coronavirus, Other Viral Infections | Health News - NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News - May 31st, 2020
- Rapid Growth on Genetic Testing Market with COVID-19 Impact Analysis, Top Key Companies like Abbott Laboratories Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc.,... - May 31st, 2020
- insideHPC Special Report: HPC and AI for the Era of Genomics - insideHPC - May 31st, 2020
- UCalgary researchers launch 360-degree study of children and COVID-19 - UCalgary News - May 31st, 2020
- 4000 Years of contact, conflict and cultural change had little genetic impact in Near East - University of Birmingham - May 31st, 2020
- Precision Medicine Market Overview By Growing Demands, Trends And Business Opportunities 2020 To 2027 - Cole of Duty - May 31st, 2020
- NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn't happen this week - wausaupilotandreview.com - May 31st, 2020
- Precision Medicine Informs Cost-Effective Heart Disease Treatments - HealthITAnalytics.com - May 19th, 2020
- Colonizing Mars may require humanity to tweak its DNA - Space.com - May 19th, 2020
- Complement genes add to sex-based vulnerability in lupus and schizophrenia - Newswise - May 19th, 2020
- 23andMe Is Trying to Crack the Genetic Code Behind the Coronavirus - Motley Fool - May 19th, 2020
- Global Molecular Diagnostics Industry 2019-2029: Genetic Disorders, Cardiovascular Disorders, Infections and Cancer - Yahoo Finance UK - May 19th, 2020
- Prominent Cancer Researcher to Join DRI and Renown Health - GlobeNewswire - May 19th, 2020
- Research Roundup: HIV vaccination, diabetes two-in-one injection, hybrid fish genetics - The Stanford Daily - May 19th, 2020
- Singapore researches discover specific gene linked to Asian Lung Cancer - BSA bureau - May 19th, 2020
- Grant will help scientists break new ground in gene editing - Newswise - May 19th, 2020
- Genomic Medicine Market 2020 | Know the Latest COVID19 Impact Analysis And Strategies of Key Players: Ingersoll Rand, Johnson Controls, Daikin, United... - May 19th, 2020
- Dyne Therapeutics Accelerates Programs in Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) with Exclusive Licensing of Technologies to Target Genetic... - May 19th, 2020
- Coronavirus immunity passports could create a world of 'us and them'. But here's why they make sense - Genetic Literacy Project - May 19th, 2020
- New Stem Cell-Based Topical Solution Helps Bald People Regrow Hair - SciTechDaily - May 19th, 2020
- Scientists race to find a cure or vaccine for the coronavirus. Here are the top drugs in development - CNBC - May 19th, 2020
- WHITEHALL ANALYTICA THE AI SUPERSTATE: Part 2 Is COVID-19 Fast-Tracking a Eugenics-Inspired Genomics Programme in the NHS? - Byline Times - May 19th, 2020
- CRISPR And CRISPR-Associated (Cas) Genes Market Size, Share, Trends and Forecast 2026 by Major Players and Business Opportunities Caribou... - May 19th, 2020
- Researchers: Disease affecting kids could be in the genes - Newsday - May 19th, 2020
- From Competition To Sharing: How Her Childrens Rare Disease Led Sharon Terry To Revolutionize Medical Research - Forbes - May 9th, 2020
- Infection rates may have links to cancer - Medical News Today - May 9th, 2020
- Twin peeks: Stanford inherits twin registry, expanding research options - Stanford Medical Center Report - May 9th, 2020
- Management of Fertility and Hormonal Health in Women at Risk for Hereditary Gynecologic Cancers - Endocrinology Advisor - May 9th, 2020
- Individualized mosaics of microbial strains transfer from the maternal to the infant gut - Newswise - May 9th, 2020
- The Falsehoods of the 'Plandemic' Video - FactCheck.org - May 9th, 2020
- Its in your genes Whether Covid lands you in hospital or not depends on your body - ThePrint - May 9th, 2020
- FDA approves Tabrecta, first targeted therapy to treat metastatic NSCLC - The Cancer Letter - May 9th, 2020
- Research into the health of unborn babies receives government funding - UNSW Newsroom - May 9th, 2020
- Genetics and Weight: Is There an Obesity Gene? - LIVESTRONG.COM - May 9th, 2020
- New medical foundation invests in COVID-19 research funding - News - The University of Sydney - May 9th, 2020
- What Do Your Genetics Have to Do With Your Chances of Dying From Coronavirus? - Vanity Fair - May 3rd, 2020
- Scientists Find New Way to Inject Plants With Medicine, And It May Help Save Our Crops - ScienceAlert - May 3rd, 2020
- Sarepta Therapeutics Announces Research Agreement with US Department of Defense to Evaluate Multiple Constructs From its Proprietary RNA Platform as... - May 3rd, 2020
- Evanston hospitals expand to antibody testing - The Daily Northwestern - May 3rd, 2020
- Profits and Pride at Stake, the Race for a Vaccine Intensifies - The New York Times - May 3rd, 2020
- Data On Thousands Of Twins Reveals How Genetics Influences Covid-19 Symptoms - IFLScience - May 3rd, 2020
- The pieces of the puzzle of covid-19s origin are coming to light - The Economist - May 3rd, 2020
- LIST: UW awards $2.2 million to groups, scientists fighting the coronavirus in Wisconsin - WMTV - May 3rd, 2020
- World Laughter Day 2020: Why we must remember that laughter is indeed the best medicine - Hindustan Times - May 3rd, 2020
- When COVID-19 Mutates, What Are the Risks? - MedicineNet - May 3rd, 2020
- Facts that China is trying to suppress about origin of COVID-19 - WION - May 3rd, 2020
- COVID-19: What's RNA research got to do with it? - University of Rochester - May 3rd, 2020
- Medical, tech investments pay off in Covid-19 war - The Straits Times - May 3rd, 2020
- Welcome to the kingdom of the sick - Salon - May 3rd, 2020
- Safety considerations with chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in the management of SARS-CoV-2 infection - CMAJ - May 3rd, 2020
- XBiotech Identifies Super Bloods for the Development of a True Human COVID-19 Therapy - GlobeNewswire - May 3rd, 2020
- On National DNA Day, scientists are trying to take the colonialism out of genetics - Massive Science - April 26th, 2020
- Turning On the 'Off Switch' in Cancer Cells - Michigan Medicine - April 26th, 2020
- Turkey's top scientific body invests TL 2.3 billion on 16 vaccine projects over 5 years | Daily Sabah - Daily Sabah - April 26th, 2020
- Covid-19 will pass. What about the racism it has illuminated? - STAT - April 26th, 2020
- Infection Rate May Indicate a Future Diagnosis of Cancer - Cancer Network - April 26th, 2020
- Misleading coronavirus information falsely attributed to Johns Hopkins - AFP Factcheck - April 26th, 2020
- He signed up for a coronavirus vaccine trial using a method that's never been used in humans. Here's why. - CNN - April 26th, 2020
- New study could lead to therapeutic interventions to treat cocaine addiction - Newswise - April 26th, 2020
- As Cuomo Issues New Executive Order, Weill Cornell Medicine Ramps Up COVID-19 Testing - Cornell University The Cornell Daily Sun - April 26th, 2020
- Another Step Towards Earlier Detection of Pancreatic Cancer - MedPage Today - April 26th, 2020
- UW president, biochemistry chair and mathematics professor named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences - UW News - April 26th, 2020
- Mustang Bio Receives Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product Classification from European Medicines Agency for MB-107 Lentiviral Gene Therapy for X-Linked... - April 26th, 2020
- Childhood Psychopathology Linked to Higher Levels of Genetic Vulnerability of Adult Depression - Clinical OMICs News - April 26th, 2020
- Gdask scientist makes crucial headway in understanding killer virus by isolating COVID-19 DNA from infected patient - The First News - April 26th, 2020