From the time the coronavirus started spreading from Wuhan province in China, much effort has gone into understanding the virus, how it spreads and what could be the best way to treat the patients as it evolved into a global pandemic. A latest study says the Bradykinin Storm is a better way to understand how the disease manifests in some patients.
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Varied Symptoms With Varied Severity
The treatment process with COVID-19 patients tends to be extremely challenging because the symptoms are not consistent across patients.
The patients appear to exhibit a different set of symptoms at varying levels of severity. And, health professionals are continually observing and understanding the disease.
While some patients deteriorate rapidly to a point where they need ventilator support, there are others who remain asymptomatic. So, there is, even more, need to hasten the reason behind this scenario.
Treatment Or Vaccine?
The race to finding a medicine to treat the virus or a vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease is on. However, we cannot wait till those become widely available; the virus may make headway into every nook and cranny of the world!
Hence, there is much interest in seeing if any of the already available FDA approved drugs could be effectively used as a part of the treatment plan, especially among those whose symptoms are severe. A research study conducted by Daniel Jacobson and his team of computational systems biologists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee can potentially be helpful in this regard.
The Research Study At Oak Ridge National Laboratory
The team is equipped with state-of-the-art technological tools such as Artificial Intelligence. They analysed over 40,000 genes, obtained from 17,000 genetic samples of coronavirus.
They accomplished it by feeding the data in ORNL’s supercomputer called the Summit; the second-fastest supercomputer in the world analysed 2.5 billion genetic combinations.
The results indicate the coronavirus sets off a “bradykinin storm” in the body responsible for the unusual symptoms presented by the patients.
What is Bradykinin And What Does It Do?
Bradykinin, a peptide that helps manage blood pressure levels and promotes inflammation, helps the body under normal circumstances.
But when it accumulates in the body, it tends to make the protective walls around the blood vessels less waterproof. This allows the immune cells to leak into vital organs. When this happens to the lungs, a fluid build-up occurs in an uncontrolled manner, causing breathlessness. Similarly, if the leak occurs in the brain, it could trigger a host of neurological symptoms such as dizziness, seizures, delirium, and stroke.
The Bradykinin storm would also explain why almost a fifth of the COVID-19 patients suffer from heart problems though they never had any cardiac events before.
In his Words:
Jacobson, the Chief Scientist for Computational Systems Biology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory says,“What we’ve found is that the imbalance in the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) pathway that appeared to be present in Covid-19 patients could be responsible for constantly desensitising bradykinin receptors. So, this imbalance in the RAS pathways will take the brakes off the bottom of the bradykinin pathway at the receptor level. Besides, the downregulation of the ACE gene in Covid-19 patients, which usually degrades bradykinin, is another key imbalance in the regulation of bradykinin levels. We have also observed that the key negative regulator at the top of the bradykinin pathway is dramatically down-regulated. Thus, you likely have an increase in bradykinin production as well, stopping many of the braking mechanisms usually in place. And, the bradykinin signal spirals out of control. “
Suppose the theory is proved using further studies; in that case, the treatment plan can become more straightforward. So, any of the existing drugs that target components of RAS can be repurposed for treating COVID-19 patients effectively.
To understand the “Bradykinin hypothesis” further, read the short report of the original research paper published in elifesciences.org, click here.