With the current global situation involving COVID-19, research into SARS-CoV-2 and Coronaviruses in general has rapidly increased and intensified. Chief among the topics of coronavirus research is the human immune system and how COVID-19 attacks the human body. We need to know what the virus is doing to our bodies in order to effectively fight it and save lives. In our efforts to support the continuation of COVID-19 research, Reddot Biotech is happy to continue featuring our cytokine ELISA kits – a key part of the human immune system!
New research has shown that patients that are severely ill with COVID-19 may be suffering from what is known as a “cytokine storm.” This reaction was also thought to contribute to the death toll during the SARS outbreak in 2003, and the 1918 Influenza pandemic. Cytokines are small molecules released by immune cells as a defence mechanism to protect the body against foreign cells and pathogens. Cytokines travel throughout the body helping to control and regulate the immune response that the body mounts against invaders. In a cytokine storm, the release of cytokines from cells is extremely elevated, overwhelming the body. Typically, when the human body encounters a pathogen, the immune cells attack, then retreat until a new threat is encountered. In a cytokine storm, the immune cells refuse to retreat.
During a cytokine storm reaction, a patient may experience a fever, headache, and sometimes, seizures or even coma. A hyper stimulated immune response can also cause cells to migrate from the infected area and start to attack healthy tissues. This can result in the lungs filling with fluid, formation of blood clots, and a drop in blood pressure.
Researchers in Wuhan discovered that higher than normal levels of IL-6 and IL-2R were found in the most severely ill COVID-19 patients early on. Later, they are joined by high levels of C-reactive protein and ferritin.
Occasionally, the culprit behind a cytokine storm can be the patient’s own genetic code. Mutations in the PRF1 gene (responsible for the synthesis of perforin) seem to correlate with severe cases of COVID-19. Perforin pokes holes into infected cells, resulting in cell lysis and death. Natural killer cells are partially responsible for the secretion of perforin, and with a mutation in the PRF1 gene, they relentlessly secrete perforin. Research suggests this mutations explain why some patients get a severe case of the disease, while others may exhibit minimal symptoms, if any at all.
Cytokine storms can be visualized on a CT scan of infected lungs, and research being conducted at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver General Hospital is helping to bring that information into play with patient treatment. The researchers are using machine learning to develop an Artificial Intelligence model that can analyze CT scans from lungs of COVID-19 patients and help to correlate that information with patient diagnosis and prognosis. They are hopeful this can become a useful tool for healthcare providers and eventually, contribute to better patient care and outcomes.
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