This is a major discovery that was made by an international team of researchers, including Toulouse scientists from theInstitute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology of the CNRS. Research has highlighted the role of a receptor in the resistance of some people to the coronavirus.
A study on Covid-19 conducted by an international team
This Covid-19 study was thought for several months, from the end of the first confinement, by a group of researchers from the universities of Singapore, Cambridge and New York, the Imagine Institute of Genetic Diseases in Paris, the CNRS and the Toulouse hospital. The results were published in the journal Molecular Cell.
“Our lab works on sepsis, which is bacterial infections that cause organ damage and lead to death, which can be the case with the SARS-CoV-2», explains Étienne Meunier to The Independent Opinion. A starting point that leads researchers to study the cells of the nose, throat and lungs of uninfected and then infected patients in order to understand the mechanisms that come into play during the inflammatory response to Covid-19. Scientists then discovered the NLRP1 inflammasome, which explained the good resistance of 85% of people infected with Covid-19.
It is a receptor that detects Covid-19. It releases a poison that causes the infected cell to die. Thus, it can no longer multiply and invade neighboring cells. This helps to protect the body against the virus”, explains Étienne Meunier.
More effective on certain variants of Covid-19
Faced with the emergence of multiple variants of Covid-19the scientists then tested the effectiveness of the inflammasome on each of them, with more or less convincing results depending on the strain.
It works with all variants but responds best with the omicron variant. People infected with this variant essentially have the symptoms of a cold, the virus remains in the nose and in the throat, it goes very little into the lungs. Is it the activation of this receptor that keeps it in the upper tract? This is a track that we do not exclude”, advances the researcher from the Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology.
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However, this “cellular saboteur” exists in each of us. So, how to explain the development of serious forms by some of the patients, when others will only develop minimal symptoms? A question that scientists are now trying to answer.
We all have mutations with different genes and receptors. We are trying to determine if vulnerable people have a mutation on this receptor, which explains a lower resistance”, continues the researcher.
Possible treatments for other pathologies
Present in human lung epithelial cells, the NLRP1 receptor could not have been discovered during skill research on mice. In this sense, the pandemic will therefore have enabled researchers to make considerable progress, especially since their discovery brings perspectives on other pathologies.
The receptor is also expressed in neuronal cells and involved in degenerative neurological diseases, such as Huntington’s disease, but also in inflammatory diseases that affect the skin”, adds Étienne Meunier.
Approving it could thus lead to the development of new therapeutic approaches in the treatment of these diseases. In the case of neurological diseases, inhibiting it could help slow the progression of degeneration. On the contrary, boosting NLRP1 could improve the inflammatory response to certain diseases and viruses, including Covid-19.