A New Jersey biotech company believes his drug can help save the lives of the sickest coronavirus patients.
BioAegis Therapeutics has tested a protein called gelsolin to treat pneumonia.
Gelsolin occurs naturally in the human body and helps fight inflammation such as that in critically ill and dying coronavirus patients.
At an early stage, their IV treatment has helped pneumonia patients recover, and small-business scientists think deteriorating COVID-19 patients could benefit from the drug with relatively low risk.
COVID-19 is much more dangerous than others in the coronavirus family – variations that cause colds – because it gets into the deep spurs of the lungs and causes pneumonia.
Gelsolin, shown in multicolored tangles, binds to and clears inflammatory cells. BioAegis Therapeutics has tested it in patients with mild pneumonia and hopes to try to treat coronavirus patients with severe inflammation from pneumonia with their IV drug
Coronavirus becomes deadly when it reaches the depths of the lungs, causing pneumonia, severe inflammation that can damage and shut off the lungs. Pictured: A patient is taken to the Brooklyn Hospital Center
Serious coronaviruses such as SARS, MERS and COVID-19 “have a protein that protrudes from their surface and binds to a human protein in the lung,” said BioAegis chief physician. Mark DiNubile in one KYW Radio interview.
“So now, instead of being a troublesome cold or mild flu-like illness … they can penetrate the lungs and cause a very vivid, noxious, sometimes inflammatory response that hurts the host.”
Inflammation from pneumonia can be life-threatening. That same inflammatory response helps take immune cells to the site of an infection to fight it, but that can overwhelm the lung and damage the tissue and function of the lung.
It’s a serious pneumonia from COVID-19 that makes the infection so deadly without drugs to fight the virus.
The human body is naturally equipped with a number of weapons to fight inflammation.
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Inflammation from pneumonia, caused by coronavirus, causes the lungs to fail. These patients need these types of respirators to keep them breathable and alive
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One is gelsolin, a protein involved in the immune response.
But gelsolin gets exhausted when the body is faced with a bout of trauma or infection.
That’s where BioAegis’ therapeutic agent comes into play. Dr. DiNubile has been studying gelsolin for much of his life, and is working with the biotech company to develop a lab-made version of the protein that he thinks can help fight the destruction of COVID-19 in the lungs. .
“Gelsolin … appears to modulate inflammation,” said Dr. DiNubile.
It leaves the bloodstream and goes to the site of the infection and removes the injury.
“When cells are injured, like [they are] in pneumonia, they tear their guts, their intercellular contents. [Gelsolin] enters and cleans up and stimulates inflammation, but once the dirt has been cleared, it can bind [inflammatory cells] and reduce them. ‘
The protein is involved in the increase in inflammation that floods the infection site with white blood cells, but it also helps wipe away the excess inflammation that’s left, which can cause secondary injuries to a tissue – in this case, the lungs.
Although more than 80 percent of coronavirus patients recover, an alarming number of serious diseases develop and need to be placed on fans. Treatment that combats the inflammatory effects of pneumonia can help save their lives
“It can fight inflammation, which is sometimes exaggerated with coronavirus [patients], which is why we think that patients get so sick and die, “said Dr. DiNubile.
In previous studies, an increase in gelsolin has been documented in patients with lung infection or trauma in the immediate aftermath, but it quickly becomes depleted and the protein level drops low.
These patients tend to develop complications hours and days later.
When DiNubile and his team tested their gelsolin drug in animals, the protein’s boost helped them recover faster and better.
Then they tested it on a small number of people with mild pneumonia from various infections.
“We actually didn’t expect an advantage,” because these patients typically recover well with supportive care only, unlike some coronavirus patients, Dr. DiNubile.
But they did.
And then coronavirus arose, and it seemed to Dr. DiNubile a perfect match for gelsolin.
The drug is not specifically made to deal with the coroan virus, and in fact not to attack the virus itself, but instead the most damaging symptoms.
“It’s the same reason for trials with hydroxychloroquine because it modulates inflammation, not because it has a strong antiviral effect,” Dr. DiNubile out.
An advantage of gelsolin is that it is a recreation of a protein already circulating in the human body, so it is probably safe.
But the downside is that BioAegis is a small company with limited funding. Dr. DiNubile says the drug can be produced relatively quickly and efficiently, but it doesn’t have a large supply of IV treatment at the ready.
BioAegis has filed with the FDA for a rapid authorization to initiate a clinical trial in the treatment of COVID-19 patients who are about to or about to need fans.