Dr Sigrun Lange, Reader in Molecular Pathology, has led a new study assessing a group of protein-modifying enzymes called peptidylarginine deiminases (PADs) in COVID-19 patient organ biopsy samples and in cell-based lung models, identifying new ways that organs may beaffected by the virus.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been found to cause a large variety of additional symptoms to its effects on the lungs, including heart and kidney complications, stroke and other neurological conditions as well as cutaneous diseases, such as skin rashes. It remains unclear how many of these shorter-term responses may also have longer-term impacts on patients, including effects on the heart and kidney function as well as multiple neurological, psychological and physiological effects. Therefore, investigations into and the identification of new drug targets in COVID-19 are urgently needed.
The study assessed a group of enzymes called peptidylarginine deiminases (PADs), which are activated in many disease conditions and cause modifications in protein structure, causing proteins to lose or change function, therefore also making them a key player in a range of immune responses. The researchers’ findings identified the complex role of PADs in pathological responses in COVID-19 patients and the ways that their organs are affected.
The study was carried out in collaboration with Dr Pinar Uysal-Onganer, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology at the University of Westminster, and academics at the Gebze Technical University in Turkey.
Talking about the study, the lead researcher Dr Lange said: “PAD-related pathways may indeed contribute to many of the comorbidities observed in COVID-19 patients, based on our identification in multiple organ biopsies alongside prior research. The findings of our study may therefore be relevant for the development of treatment strategies in a number of conditions found in SARS-CoV-2 infected patients, including neurological symptoms, kidney failure and heart complications, all of which have been highlighted in COVID-19.
“Our pilot study therefore highlights PADs as novel biomarkers in COVID-19 and provides a platform for further in-depth studies in larger patient cohorts as well as investigations into the multiple roles of PADs in longer-term COVID-19 related effects and comorbidities. The identification of new therapeutic targets, such as PADs, is of major importance to advance understanding and treatment strategies for this complex disease.”