In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Pain Researchers Help Understand COVID-19 Treatment

Coronavirus strand researched by pain professionals

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

As COVID-19 continues to make its way around the world, causing death along its destructive path, there are many researchers trying to find answers.  Behind the scenes, science and medical field representatives are conducting research to try to find the best ways to help treat patients with severe cases.  Pain researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas have helped shed some light on what may help the virus spread so quickly in patients’ lungs.

Understanding COVID-19

A research study published in the June 2020 issue of the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity [1] explored what the potential drivers of the neurogenic pulmonary dysfunction may be in a COVID-19 patient who became severely ill.

The team of pain researchers looked at a potential strategy for countering the pattern of how the virus accelerates in the lungs.  Citing that the virus could originate with the nervous system, their findings help identify interactions that take place between the nerves in the lungs and the immune system.  They used this information to determine what causes the rapid deterioration in those COVID-19 patients.

Patients who have severe cases of COVID-19 have major inflammation that starts in the lungs, and then progresses to affecting the rest of the body.  Patients who become severely ill tend to suffer from Acute Respiratory Syndrome (ARS), which is when fluid builds up in the lungs on the tiny elastic air sacs.  This keeps the lungs from being able to get enough air, which deprives the organs from oxygen.

More about the study

Their study uses a prediction model to identify the relevant receptor signaling that is taking place between the bronchial alveolar lavage fluid and human sensory neurons.  Researchers found ligand-receptor interactions in the lung caused by COVID-19.  Using those findings, they found potential to intervene in an effort to reduce the neurogenic inflammation in those patients with the virus.

This is good news when it comes to finding ways to treat the most severe cases of  COVID-19.  It provides promise in that there may be some drugs that can be used to combat the interaction and keep patients from becoming severely ill.  The drugs may be able to block the neurogenic inflammation, thus keeping cases from becoming severe.

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[1] Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. A pharmacological interactome between COVID-19 patient samples and human sensory neurons reveals potential drivers of neurogenic pulmonary dysfunction. June 2020.

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