Findings from a CHOP/Penn Medicine study could lead to treatment for patients with lung disease, including acute respiratory distress syndrome due to COVID-19
Using cutting-edge technology, including genome-wide and single-cell analyses, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have identified a cellular pathway that can be targeted with a naturally occurring drug to stimulate lung tissue regeneration, which is necessary for recovery from multiple lung injuries. The findings, which were published in Nature Cell Biology, could lead to better therapies for patients with lung disease, including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to COVID-19.
Conditions like pneumonia, influenza and ARDS – one of the known complications of COVID-19 – can damage the lining of the air sacs in the lungs, known as the alveolar epithelium, which prevents oxygen from passing from the lungs to the bloodstream and can lead to death. Patients with COVID-19 who develop ARDS become critically ill, and to date, no drugs have been developed specifically to treat ARDS in COVID-19 patients. Understanding which genetic targets and pathways are involved in regenerating epithelial tissue is critical in developing effective therapies for ARDS and similar conditions.
“We believe these findings could lead to the development of a new therapeutic that could help patients recovering from COVID-19 and similar diseases,” said the study’s first author, Andrew J. Paris, MD, Instructor of Medicine and a pulmonary specialist in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Based on the results of this study, we think 7,8-DHF is an excellent candidate for entering clinical trials for patients with lung diseases.”
The research was supported by the Parker B. Fellowship Program and multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health. [Paris et al. “STAT3-BDNF-TrkB signaling promotes alveolar epithelial regeneration after lung injury,” Nature Cell Biology, September 28, 2020, doi: 10.1038/s41556-020-0569-x]