When the COVID-19 outbreak began, it was initially thought to primarily be a respiratory virus. In the months since, the virus has shown to be a much more formidable foe with many stealthy tactics to wage war on the human body. One of the more problematic effects of the disease is the cytokine storms it produces that cause the immune system to go into overdrive and attack healthy cells. The kidneys of COVID-19 patients are a frequent target of the disease.
Dr. Matthias Kretzler, the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Internal Medicine in Nephrology and NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies faculty member, believes a class of therapeutics — anti-interleukin 6 agents, or anti-IL6 for short — that has proven helpful in treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer may be an effective therapy for COVID-19.
amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, has provided Dr. Kretzler with a grant to study the therapeutic potential of anti-IL6 agents. With this funding, he will examine the cell-specific effects of these therapeutics in the cells that line the kidney to uncover the best treatment practices to combat COVID-19 and to move this therapy into clinical trials.
Dr. Kretzler believes that differences in cell-specific RNA transcription will provide important COVID-19 mechanistic information, namely downstream gene expression biomarkers that will help to map treatment responses in COVID-19 patients. The generated datasets will be shared rapidly following quality control checks via NephroCell (nephrocell.miktmc.org) and NIH databases.
“I am continually amazed at Dr. Kretzler’s unique ability to peel back the mechanisms that underlie problems in the kidney,” said Dr. Eva Feldman. “Having already uncovered the important relationship of receptors in the kidney to COVID-19, the current work even advances the field further, and translates his exceptional basic research into real-life therapies for patients.”