Among the populations most significantly affected by COVID-19 are the elderly and patients with preexisting medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and chronic lung diseases like COPD and asthma.
In a new study from Brown University, researchers found why these groups have a higher risk of infection as well as of severe side effects and death.
They found that levels of a protein called chitinase 3-like-1 increase with age as well as co-morbid diseases and infection. What’s more, chitinase 3-like-1 augments SARS CoV-2 infection.
Chitinase 3-like-1 is the cornerstone of a critical pathway that is activated during injury and inflammation.
These researchers and others have shown that circulating levels of chitinase 3-like-1 increase during infection, especially in diseases characterized by inflammation and tissue alterations—like emphysema, asthma and COPD, some the same co-morbid diseases that are risk factors for COVID-19.
Interestingly, levels of chitinase 3-like-1 have also been shown to increase during normal aging. In fact, they are the best predictor of all-cause mortality in people in their 80s.
In the study, the team examined the relationship between chitinase 3-like-1 and the receptor ACE2, the spike protein to which the SARS-CoV-2 binds to enter human cells.
They found that levels of chitinase 3-like-1 increased with age, co-morbid diseases and infection. In addition, they noted that chitinase 3-like-1 was a potent stimulator of the receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect cells.
The researchers developed a humanized monoclonal antibody called FRG that attacks a particular region of chitinase 3-like-1—a step that turned out to be critical.
They found that this “therapeutic” antibody, as well as another small molecule, powerfully blocked the induction of the ACE2 receptor.
These findings could pave the way for the development of therapeutics to protect people from infection.
If you care about COVID, please read studies about COVID-19’s impacts on the brain and mind are varied and common and findings of scientists develop new drugs to fight COVID-19.
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The study is published in the journal JCI Insight. One author of the study is Dr. Jack A. Elias.
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