A cure for Covid-19 may have been on our skin all along. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have discovered a potential new therapy for SARS-CoV-2 through a substance in skin cells that can block infection. In the study, published in the scientific journal “Biomaterials and Biosystems”, the scientists explained that the new treatment is only possible in the first place thanks to a biological substance created by engineered human skin cells, which has already demonstrated its effectiveness. ability to block SARS-CoV-2 reproduction and even helped protect already infected lung cells. The work is still in its infancy, but the findings open the door to a new treatment for Covid-19 in the not too distant future.
“We were surprised to find that this potential therapy opens a new pathway for viral replication and also protects infected cells,” said study first author Ahmed G. Ibrahim, assistant professor at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars- Sinai, in a statement. . .
Although the few current treatments available for Covid-19 have focused on preventing the replication of the coronavirus, the new treatment appears to be able to inhibit replication while protecting and repairing damaged tissue, which opens new perspectives. for the so-called “long Covid” – the double effect could be a major therapeutic advantage in the race to end the pandemic.
The study authors developed this new treatment using skin cells called dermal fibroblasts, specifically designed to create therapeutic extracellular vesicles (EVs), or nanoparticles that facilitate communication between cells and tissues. These electric vehicles, which can repair damaged tissue, have been named “ASTEX” by the researchers.
Previously, pre-pandemic research gathered considerable evidence suggesting that ASTEX can repair damaged heart, lung and muscle tissue in a group of laboratory mice. After Covid-19 entered the scene, the research team redirected their efforts to determine if ASTEX could serve as a treatment for SARS-CoV-2.
Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) helped complete the next round of research – study authors tested to see what would happen when they applied ASTEX to human lung epithelial cells, which are cells that line the pulmonary tract. SARS-CoV-2 often targets these cells when the virus attacks the lungs. The experiment showed that ASTEX was actually successful in preventing cells from starting an inflammatory process that could lead to cell death. Additionally, cells exposed to ASTEX created a less specific protein (ACE) that Covid-19 uses to infect healthy cells.
Treatment with ASTEX is different from previous methods of controlling Covid-19 infection. “Viruses don’t have their own mechanism to enter cells, so they use proteins,” explained Ahmed G. Ibrahim. “We believe targeting ACE proteins is just one way SARS-CoV-2 infiltrates cells, picks up their genetic information, and replicates in the body.”
“This potential biological therapy against Covid-19 is novel because it has two facets: it protects infected cells and it also inhibits viral replication,” said Eduardo Marbán, executive director of the Smidt Heart Institute and professor at Cedars-Sinai.