SYDNEY, March 4 (Xinhua) – A group of Australian researchers have explored the reasons why many COVID-19 patients also experience heart trauma and have revealed new avenues for effective treatment.
Recent evidence suggests that about a quarter of patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 have suffered some form of cardiovascular injury, and up to two-thirds have experienced inflammation of the heart.
A study released Thursday by the Australian Institute for Medical Research QIMR Berghofer revealed some of the ways COVID-19 causes this damage and identified a class of drugs that could potentially protect or reverse heart trauma.
“We thought that understanding the biological basis of heart damage was essential to identify drugs with a much higher chance of success,” said Associate Professor James Hudson, head of the Cardiac Bioengineering Research Group. QIMR Berghofer.
The results showed that in severe cases of COVID-19, the immune system overreacts, releasing inflammatory molecules called cytokines into the bloodstream. Dubbed a “cytokine storm,” the reaction can damage a number of organs, including the heart.
Based on the results, Canadian company Resverlogix has expanded a clinical trial of the drug, apabetalone in patients with COVID-19, to examine whether it can treat heart damage.
To conduct the study, the QIMR Berghofer team used thousands of laboratory-grown miniature human heart organoids, which they exposed to the blood of patients with COVID-19.
“We exposed the bioengineered heart tissue derived from stem cells to the blood of the COVID-19 patient and found that it caused dysfunction even when the virus did not infect the tissue,” explained Hudson.
“We then used our cardiac mini-organoids to screen several existing drugs that inhibit this protein and found that they could prevent and reverse the damage.”
One of the drugs that was found to be effective in blocking the inflammatory response was apabetalone, which, due to being at the center of cardiovascular disease clinical trials for more than five years, may be available to treat more early COVID-19 patients.
The research was funded by the Queensland State Government and accelerated by the Australian Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), which is helping identify potential new treatments for COVID-19.
“Professor Hudson’s cardiac organoid research is at the forefront of the world and provides a way to quickly test potential new drugs,” Queensland Minister of Health Yvette D’Ath said. Enditem