Mount Sinai Researchers Investigate COVID -19 Biology, Describe Receptors in Intestinal Tract

Study published in Gastroenterology

Research Alert

Newswise — In a study published today in Gastroenterology, researchers with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai describe their investigation into two key aspects of COVID-19 biology in their study of the intersection between COVID-19, intestinal inflammation, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treatment. What they learned by studying the intestinal lining is that receptors for SARS-COV-2, (ACE2 and TMPRSS2) are abundantly expressed in the intestines. This implies a potential for GI-associated replication of SARS-COV-2. Furthermore, they write, a number of overlapping inflammatory pathways between COVID-19 and IBD are noted. Their findings support the use of specific anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of patients with COVID-19. 

“We investigated two aspects of COVID-19 biology and describe one of the most detailed protein and gene expression characterizations of COVID-19 receptors in the intestinal tract to date. We have found that the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, ACE2 is abundantly expressed by the lining of the small intestines, implying that small intestinal cells have the potential to get infected by COVID-19.” says principal investigator, Saurabh Mehandru, MD, Associate Professor, Gastroenterology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. 

The researchers also reveal a subset of common genes and biological pathways between COVID-19 and IBD, which is likely due to inflammation-related tissue damage in the two diseases. “Importantly, this intersecting biology appeared to be enriched in genes that change upon anti-IBD medication use in IBD patients, suggesting that some of the IBD medications could be used to treat COVID-19.  This study reminds us of the value of investigating COVID-19 not only as a ‘new’ disease but also how it might relate to ‘old/common’ diseases for which a rich mechanistic and therapeutic knowledge base already exists and can be rapidly re-contextualized,” says study co-leading author, Carmen Argmann, MD, Associate Professor, Genetics and Genomic Sciences, Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

 

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