Reproductive Hormone May Curb COVID-19 Inflammation, Prevent ‘Cytokine Storm’

Researchers identify widely available oxytocin as a potential pro-immune treatment
American Physiological Society (APS)

Newswise — Rockville, Md. (October 6, 2020)—Researchers have used “omics” data containing genetic profiles of drugs to identify the hormone oxytocin as a possible treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The study is published in Physiological Genomics. It was chosen as an APSselect article for October.

Increased inflammation that leads to a “cytokine storm”—in which the body attacks its own tissues—remains one of the most serious and least understood complications of COVID-19. To date, there are no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19, which means that “repurposing existing drugs that can act on the adaptive immune response and prevent the cytokine storm in early phases of the disease is a priority,” authors of a new study wrote.

Oxytocin, a hormone produced in the brain, is involved in reproduction and childbirth. A synthetic form of oxytocin, frequently known by its brand name Pitocin, is given by an IV to some people to help labor progress and to stop bleeding after childbirth. Oxytocin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which promote an immune response. Previous research suggests the hormone protects against toxic injury and reduces levels of inflammatory substances in the lungs. Studies have also shown that cultured human cells with reduced expression of oxytocin receptors have higher levels of inflammatory proteins and oxidative stress.

The researchers of the new study used the National Institutes of Health’s Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures database to analyze characteristics of genes that have been treated with drugs closely related to oxytocin. They found one drug in particular, carbetocin, has similar characteristics (called a signature) to genes with reduced expression of the inflammatory markers that trigger cytokine storm in people with COVID-19. Carbetocin’s signature indicates that the drug may promote the activation of T cells, which are immune cells that play an important role in immune response. Carbetocin’s signature is also similar to that of lopinavir, an antiretroviral medication already being explored as a treatment for COVID-19. All of these factors point to the promising potential of oxytocin as a targeted treatment for coronavirus-related cytokine storms.

“Understanding the mechanisms by which [oxytocin] or the [oxytocin system] can be a new immune target is crucial,” the research team wrote. However, “safety and efficacy of intravenous oxytocin in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 remains to be assessed.”

Read the full article, “Oxytocin’s anti-inflammatory and proimmune functions in COVID-19: a transcriptomic signature-based approach,” published in Physiological Genomics. It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

 

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Newswise: Johns Hopkins Medicine Hosts Briefing on Women’s Health
Released: 26-Oct-2020 4:00 PM EDT
Johns Hopkins Medicine Hosts Briefing on Women’s Health
Johns Hopkins Medicine

Since its inception in 1995, the mission for A Woman’s Journey has remained the same: to empower women to make the right health care decisions for their families and themselves.

Newswise: COVID-19's effect on Halloween is more trick than treat
Released: 26-Oct-2020 3:35 PM EDT
COVID-19's effect on Halloween is more trick than treat
University of Delaware

Let’s not sugarcoat it: the coronavirus (COVID-19) is hurting our holidays, even if it is, possibly, helping our teeth. A new University of Delaware study shows 42% of American households plan to consume less candy this year, and trick-or-treating could be down 41%.

Newswise: Data scientists in Chicago fill in gaps on race, ethnicity in COVID-19 testing
Released: 26-Oct-2020 3:15 PM EDT
Data scientists in Chicago fill in gaps on race, ethnicity in COVID-19 testing
DePaul University

Thousands of people are being tested for COVID-19 each day, but collecting complete demographic information, including race and ethnicity, has proven difficult. Data science researchers at DePaul University have stepped up in Chicago to help public health officials fill in this missing information.

Released: 26-Oct-2020 3:10 PM EDT
Scientists to improve food plant worker safety, product supply
Cornell University

A Cornell University-led project will use computer modeling and outreach to find optimal strategies to minimize COVID-19 cases and transmission among workers in food processing facilities, while maintaining the best possible production.

Newswise: Safety and prevention are priority for Penn State Health as COVID-19 pandemic continues
Released: 26-Oct-2020 2:10 PM EDT
Safety and prevention are priority for Penn State Health as COVID-19 pandemic continues
Penn State Health

The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 is rising sharply statewide – and the trend is reflected in central Pennsylvania and in Penn State Health’s hospitals and outpatient clinics. As the increase is not unexpected, care teams across Penn State Health remain prepared to provide care for all patients who need it – whether for COVID or any other health issue.

Newswise: Ultrasounds Show Impact of COVID-19 on the Heart
22-Oct-2020 9:35 AM EDT
Ultrasounds Show Impact of COVID-19 on the Heart
Mount Sinai Health System

International study may guide therapeutic strategies in patients with and without underlying heart conditions

Newswise: DFW COVID-19 Prevalence Study Expands
Released: 26-Oct-2020 12:20 PM EDT
DFW COVID-19 Prevalence Study Expands
UT Southwestern Medical Center

Key Points: - As North Texas braces for a second COVID wave and flu season, a major COVID-19 study by UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources is expanding. - The study is expanding from its original invitation-only format to offer more members of Dallas and Tarrant County communities a chance to participate. - Testing in the study is still free and includes testing for active and past infections.

Released: 26-Oct-2020 12:00 PM EDT
HSS Shares Successful Strategies to Support the Health of Older Adults with Online Programs
Hospital for Special Surgery

To address health concerns of inactivity and social isolation in older adults during the pandemic, the HSS Education Institute utilized various online approaches to deliver high quality musculoskeletal health education, exercise and support programs. Claudia Zurlini, senior coordinator, Public & Patient Education at HSS, presents best practices for a successful transition to online programming at the virtual American Public Health Association meeting.


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