An international team of scientists led by experts from China has identified a molecular pathway that increases the severity of critical cases of COVID-19.
Understanding this pathway could provide clues to potential treatments for severe cases of coronavirus infection, Regnum reported, citing Xinhua News Agency.
The study, published in the journal Science Signaling, showed that fusion of coronavirus-infected lung cells can intensify inflammatory responses, triggering immune response cascades in the lungs. This is what becomes the main cause of lung damage in patients with severe disease.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union College of Medicine and their colleagues analyzed tissue samples from patients who died from coronavirus infection. They found a correlation between critical cases of COVID-19 and fusion of lung epithelial cells called pneumocytes. Such fusion was also observed in macaques and in cultured cells infected with the virus.
“Our data point to a mechanism by which fused pneumocytes in the lungs of patients with COVID-19 may increase the production of interferons and other cytokines, thereby exacerbating the severity of the disease,” said co-author Liu Xiaoming.