I've been reading quite a bit about the scientific developments behind tacking COVID-19 and there is so much information out there, but news about this drug stood out to me...
When the body's immune response over reacts, as it does with some COVID-19 patients, a lot of damage can be done. Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Bert Vogelstein and his team at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine will start clinical trials shortly, with a drug that may ease this hyperinflammatory response before it starts.
As symptoms would be managed before they become severe, this could reduce the need for ICU admission or ventilator use. Of course, a vaccine would prevent someone from getting the illness in the first place, but a drug such as this one could be extremely useful before a vaccine is available.
For a bit of the science, when macrophages, and other immune cells, detect a virus particle, they send out cytokines (as per the tiny purple specks in the image above). Cytokines help by bringing other immune cells to the scene – and this is what ultimately helps the body fight off a virus. However, macrophages can also release catecholamines, which amplifies the response, so even more cytokines are released. Once this starts, the whole process snowballs - and there seems to be an inability to properly switch it off. The drug being tested is an alpha blocker, that may limit cytokine release.
Like many scientists, HHMI scientists are joining many of their colleagues worldwide in working to combat the new coronavirus. Stories of some of this work will feature on their site, so I'm looking forward to reading more.
The story featured in this post may be found here