San Martino di Genova and Harvard study finds 'Notch4' protein: aggravates Covid symptoms
Eliminating ‘Notch4’ may prevent aggravation of all acute viral lung infections
Eliminating the protein ‘Notch4’, which is present in certain immune cells in the lungs, can prevent the worsening of symptoms in Covid-19 patients
This is the result of an international study published in the journal ‘Immunity’ and coordinated by Raffaele De Palma, an immunologist at the Policlinico San Martino in Genoa and the CNR, and Talal Chatila of Harvard University.
The immune system, explains the Genoese hospital in a note, after encountering a pathogenic agent, activates a series of responses that, under normal conditions, are blocked by a self-regulating mechanism.
However, the monitoring system does not always work and the inflammation becomes uncontrollable: this is what happens, for example, with the ‘cytokine storm’, an exaggerated immune response due to an excessive production of inflammatory proteins that, instead of fighting the infection, accelerate the process.
“Cytokine storm is a phenomenon found in patients suffering from severe forms of Covid,’ says De Palma. ‘The results of our work have shown that, in regulatory cells from the lung tissue of people with Covid, there is an abnormal presence of the protein Notch4: the more protein there is, the more severe the patient’s condition.
By eliminating this protein in mice with viral respiratory infections, it is possible to prevent worsening of the condition and even death’.
The relationship between Notch4 and Amfiregulin
The reason for this, explains the immunologist, ‘is partly due to the ability of the Notch4 protein to inhibit the activity of a second protein, called Amfiregulin, which plays a key role in blocking inflammation and helping to repair lung tissue.
For these reasons, Notch4 is a possible therapeutic target for combating lung inflammation caused not only by Covid-19, but also by all viruses capable of attacking this tissue’.
The results of the research, concludes De Palma, ‘open up a new avenue for treating acute viral lung infections and, presumably, all lung diseases characterised by inflammation’.
For the scientific director of San Martino, Antonio Uccelli, “these results are confirmation that, despite the difficult months, the research activities of the polyclinic have never stopped, but rather are making numerous steps forward to address and try to win many battles, including the fight against Covid-19″.