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: COVID’s Collateral Damage: Germicidal Lamps May Damage Corneas
Released: 24-Nov-2020 5:15 PM EST
COVID’s Collateral Damage: Germicidal Lamps May Damage Corneas
University of Miami Health System, Miller School of Medicine

In a paper published in the journalOcular Immunology and Inflammation, physicians from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine reported that several patients using germicidal lamps in an attempt to sanitize against the coronavirus, developed painful inflammation of the cornea, a condition called photokeratitis.

Released: 24-Nov-2020 4:35 PM EST
Cleveland Clinic Research Shows Bariatric Surgery May Reduce Severity of COVID-19 in Patients with Obesity
Cleveland Clinic

CLEVELAND: A Cleveland Clinic study shows that among patients who have obesity and who tested positive for COVID-19, a past history of bariatric surgery was significantly associated with a lower risk of hospital and intensive care unit admission. The results were published in the journal of Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases.

Newswise: 249693_web.jpg
Released: 24-Nov-2020 3:40 PM EST
New therapy for flu may help in fight against COVID-19
Purdue University

A new therapy for influenza virus infections that may also prove effective against many other pathogenic virus infections, including HIV and COVID-19, has been developed by Purdue University scientists.

Released: 24-Nov-2020 3:30 PM EST
‘Crisis decision making at the speed of COVID-19’ – Bay Area public health officials share their experience with shelter-in-place order
Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott

In mid-March, public health officials across the San Francisco area issued the first U.S. regional shelter-in-place order in response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. A “field report” on the crisis decision-making approach followed in that effective early response is featured in a special COVID-19 supplement to the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Newswise: Research Helps Identify High-Risk Populations to aid
Health Officials Combating the Pandemic
Released: 24-Nov-2020 3:25 PM EST
Research Helps Identify High-Risk Populations to aid Health Officials Combating the Pandemic
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

A team of UCLA Fielding School of Public Health researchers has developed a method to better guide public policy related to the control and prevention of COVID-19, based on identifying those most at risk in the pandemic

Released: 24-Nov-2020 3:15 PM EST
Workplace Expert: COVID-Safe Company Holiday Party Ideas and Why Celebrating is Significant
University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business

Maryland Smith workplace expert Vijaya Venkataramani says Zoom fatigue notwithstanding, a COVID-safe staff or company holiday celebration is ideal for leaders and managers to give thanks to team members for their resilience in 2020.

Newswise: Schooling Disrupted by the Pandemic in the United States Likely to Have Life-Long Impact, Study Says
Released: 24-Nov-2020 3:10 PM EST
Schooling Disrupted by the Pandemic in the United States Likely to Have Life-Long Impact, Study Says
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

A team that includes UCLA Fielding School of Public Health researchers has found American children whose educations have been disrupted by the pandemic, even as little as 2-4 months, may face shortened life spans.

Newswise:Video Embedded hd-b-roll-of-cedars-sinai-vaccine-storage-freezers-now-available-for-download
VIDEO
Released: 24-Nov-2020 2:55 PM EST
HD B-roll of Cedars-Sinai Vaccine Storage Freezers Now Available for Download
Cedars-Sinai

B-roll available: Video shot today showing the freezers where Cedars-Sinai will store COVID-19 vaccines. Please note: There are NO vaccines in the video. The vaccines will not arrive until next month.


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