Thursday, November 19, 2020

St. Jude Researchers Announce Possible COVID-19 Breakthrough

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2020 at 10:01 AM

click to enlarge Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, vice chair of St. Jude Immunology (center), Bhesh Raj Sharma, (left), and Rajendra Karki, (right), in Kanneganti's lab. - ST. JUDE CHILDREN'S RESEARCH HOSPITAL
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
  • Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, vice chair of St. Jude Immunology (center), Bhesh Raj Sharma, (left), and Rajendra Karki, (right), in Kanneganti's lab.

Researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital may have figured out how the pandemic virus kills and how to stop it.

Lab research at the hospital has given St. Jude immunologists a better understanding of the pathways and mechanisms that drive COVID-19 inflammation, lung damage, and organ failure. This research can lead to effective treatment strategies possibly using existing drugs, according to the hospital.

“Understanding the pathways and mechanism driving this inflammation is critical to develop effective treatment strategies,” said research lead Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, vice chair of the St. Jude Department of Immunology. “This research provides that understanding. We also identified the specific cytokines that activate inflammatory cell death pathways and have considerable potential for treatment of COVID-19 and other highly fatal diseases, including sepsis.”

The research team included Bhesh Raj Sharma and Rajendra Karki. The team’s research was recently published in the journal Cell.

click to enlarge Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, vice chair of St. Jude Immunology. - ST. JUDE CHILDREN'S RESEARCH HOSPITAL
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
  • Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, vice chair of St. Jude Immunology.

The team focused on cytokines, small proteins released by cells in immune response. Elevated levels of these proteins is sometimes called a “cytokine storm.” The researchers focused on a select set of the most elevated cytokines in COVID-19 patients, the hospital said. They tried 28 cytokine combinations and found just one duo that caused the specific reaction they were looking for.



The researchers said drugs that treat these specific cytokines are already available. Treatment with these drugs protected mice from death associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, sepsis, and more. The drugs could be repurposed for use in COVID-19.
“The results also suggest that therapies that target this cytokine combination are candidates for rapid clinical trials for treatment of not only COVID-19, but several other often fatal disorders associated with cytokine storm,” Kanneganti said.

The other authors of the study are Shraddha Tuladhar, Parimal Samir, Min Zheng, Balamurugan Sundaram, Balaji Banoth, R. K. Subbarao Malireddi, Patrick Schreiner, Geoffrey Neale, Peter Vogel, and Richard Webby, of St. Jude; and Evan Peter Williams, Lillian Zalduondo, and Colleen Beth Jonsson, of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

The research was supported by grants from ALSAC, the hospital’s fundraising organization, and the National Institutes of Health.

For more information on the research, visit St. Jude’s website.

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