Blocking immune system pathway could arrest COVID-19 spread: Study

Bhubaneswar: As scientists are working round the clock to develop vaccines that would put an end to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a new study claims that the infection might be contained by blocking a certain immune system pathway in people.

A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has identified a protein in the human immune system known as factor D that is responsible for letting the Covid-19 virus to turn the immune system against healthy cells in the body of the infected. Thus, they propose that inhibiting this protein might save people by checking deadly inflammatory reactions in them.

A single strand of Covid-19 virus has a spiny ball shape. The spikes on its surface are basically proteins that help attach it with a healthy cell and later infect it.

Briefly describing how the infection mechanism works, the researchers stated that the protein spikes stick to a large and complex molecule-heparan sulphate which makes the surfaces of lung cells, blood vessels and smooth muscles in a human body. Later, the spikes attach with another cell-surface protein called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and then use it as a doorway to attack the target cell. And that’s how one gets infected with the lethal virus.

The study further said that once the SARS-CoV-2 virus attaches with heparan sulphate, it inhibits the binding action of factor H with cells. As the purpose of factor H is to regulate chemical signals that trigger inflammation to keep the immune system from harming healthy cells, the inhibition kicks up the body’s defense mechanism thus, gradually destroying healthy cells in the several organs in the infected body starting with lungs, heart and kidneys.

Robert Brodsky, senior author of the study and director of the hematology division at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was quoted in the article saying that this mechanism was similar to several compliment-related human diseases like age-related muscular degeneration, etc.  He added that in the coming years, a number of FDA-approved complement-inhibiting drugs will be in clinical practice and perhaps one or two out of those could be paired with Covid-19 vaccines to check the Covid-19 spread and  avoid further viral pandemics.


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