Israeli researchers find breakthrough using EXO-CD24 for COVID-19.
The COVID-19 virus continues to spread, with more than 105.8 million cases confirmed worldwide. Scientists and researchers have been working to rapidly develop a vaccine.
COVID-19 patients usually experience symptoms like the flu: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, muscle or body aches, fatigue, sore throat and congestion. Coronavirus patients also sometimes experience loss of taste or smell. Symptoms and severity vary from person to person.
In more severe cases, COVID-19 patients experience acute respiratory distress syndrome or multiple organ failure. Scientists have speculated that in some people COVID-19 infection triggers a hyper immune response called a cytokine storm. This response occurs in five to seven percent of all COVID-19 patients.
Normally cytokines activate the immune system, causing immune cells to target invading cells. Cytokines also signal white blood cells to divide more quickly in case of infection. But during a cytokine storm, the body overproduces inflammatory cytokines and over-activates immune cells.
Treating and preventing viruses has been an important part of medical science since vaccinations first became common practice. Scientific research has developed several different ways to target deadly viruses. One of the most common is vaccinations.
To develop a vaccine, researchers studied the spike protein. The spike proteins present on the surface of the virus work like a key to unlock and enter human cells. When a person is infected with a virus, the immune system makes antibodies. Antibodies fight against invaders. Scientists have used this knowledge to create vaccines that induce an immune response to the spike protein of the coronavirus. When vaccinated, the patient’s immune system develops antibodies to fight the infection.
Another possible treatment has recently been studied for application to coronavirus patients. EXO-CD24 has been researched as a treatment for ovarian cancer, but doctors realized it had potential to fight the pandemic by using EXO-CD24 for COVID-19.
The Tel Aviv Ichilov Medical Center has studied EXO-CD24 for COVID-19 in a phase one clinical trial of 30 patients. Instead of working as an antiviral, EXO-CD24 for COVID-19 targets the cytokine storm that results from COVID-19.
The CD24 protein was first located years ago during research into autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Later studies showed CD24 acts as an “invisibility cloak” for cancerous tumors. It prevents white blood cells from doing their job by sending out a “don’t eat me” signal to the body’s immune system. That allows the CD24 protein to hide and allow cancerous tumors to grow.
Because of the CD24 protein’s unique ability to hide, scientists knew it had potential to be used in immunotherapy research for many deadly diseases.
Studies have shown that the CD24 protein is linked to inflammation and could be used to prevent inflammation as a response to injury. Professor Nadir Arber, of the Tel Aviv Ichilov Medical Center, theorized that the CD24 protein could be used to prevent the cytokine storm that happens in some COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Arber’s breakthrough discovery was using exosomes in combination with the CD24 protein. Exosomes are part of a transit system between cells. They are made by all cells to deliver materials between cells. Research has shown that exosomes may also be important in regulating the immune system.
EXO-CD24 for COVID-19 utilizes the exosomes to deliver the CD24 protein directly to the lungs of COVID-19 patients. The CD24 protein was enriched with exosomes. In the lungs, the CD24 protein, which has an important role in regulating the immune system, would act to calm or prevent the cytokine storm experienced by some COVID-19 patients.
The phase one study was performed on 30 moderate to severe COVID-19 patients. The EXO-CD24 for COVID-19 was delivered directly to the lungs by inhalation once a day for five minutes. The patients were observed after receiving the treatment.
Within three to five days, 29 of the 30 moderate to severe COVID-19 patients recovered from the virus. The final patient also recovered after more time.
Another benefit of EXO-CD24 for COVID-19 is that it did not appear to have significant side effects. The medicine is easy to produce and is low cost, giving it another advantage over vaccines.
EXO-CD24 research will continue into later phases. Further research will be performed using the EXO-CD24 drug on a larger group of COVID-19 patients. Additional research will allow doctors to determine whether EXO-CD24 has any negative side effects, and how well it will work on all groups of people. An emergency authorization from the government will be required before it can be used as widespread treatment for COVID-19.
The breakthrough gives hope to a world paralyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to people struggling to adapt to the new normal.
Written by: Rebecca K. Blankenship, B.Sc.
Keywords: EXO-CD24 for COVID
Other tags: clinical trial, important role in regulating, protein is located, breakthrough, covid patients, regulating the immune system, inhalation once a day, located on the surface, surface of cells, covid-19 patients, cells to deliver, 30 moderate, 30 patients, coronavirus patients.
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