Scientists have identified a genetic predisposition to a severe form of Covid-19 disease.
A photo: Vladimir VELENGURIN
Why do some people get sick with coronavirus and do not even notice it, while for others, meeting with COVID-19 is associated with a deadly risk? Russian scientists from several of the country’s best research centers, including the Higher School of Economics and the Pirogov Medical University, as well as the Moscow State University and the Filatov City Clinical Hospital, have discovered a genetic predisposition to the severe form of COVID-19. What is the essence of research? Do we urgently need to be examined for a genetic predisposition to the severe course of covid, “Komsomolskaya Pravda” deals with immunologist, candidate of medical sciences and general director of the contract research company Nikolai Kryuchkov.
How does a showcase for immunity work?
In our body there are special HLA molecules of the first type (HLA 1). They show the surrounding cells, primarily the cells of the immune system, information about what is happening inside the cell itself. These can be any changes, for example, oncological, or autoimmune, as well as infection of the cell with an infection.
– If we try to explain this mechanism, even if approximately, but clearly, then it resembles a showcase. On this showcase, with the help of HLA 1 molecules, information is laid out about everything that is out of order in the cells and requires a response, says Nikolai Kryuchkov.
Expert in the development, registration and research of drugs, candidate of medical sciences Nikolay Kryuchkov.
SARS-CoV-2 launched an invasion: what is happening inside us
For example, mucosal cells become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This means that the virus has picked up the receptors, a cascade of reactions has occurred, and it has penetrated into the cell.
“The next task of this dangerous virus is to copy itself, and it does this using the resources of the cell,” explains Nikolai Kryuchkov.
While this synthesis of viral proteins is taking place, the cell uses a “showcase” mechanism to signal SOS: to show “problems” to cells of the immune system, namely CD8 cells, the so-called T-lymphocytes – killers.
The trick is that a CD8 cell can read a foreign structure only if it is combined with HLA 1. Then, the immune system selects and reproduces exactly those killer cells that are suitable for destroying a specific infection, for example, coronavirus.
Protection against coronavirus is passed on from mom and dad
The first class HLA molecules themselves are of three types – A, B and C, and have many genetic variants that are inherited from the mother and from the father.
“This legacy forms the individual genetic profile of a person, and in some people this profile is formed in such a way that it is most effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” says Nikolai Kryuchkov. – They, relatively speaking, were lucky and their immune system reacts more effectively to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as a result – people carry this infection in a milder form. The researchers then tried to develop a risk scale that shows how much a personal genetic profile contributes to a propensity for a milder or more severe COVID-19 course.
Is it time for us to use gene therapy to prevent severe covid?
This research is exploratory, that is, this is a very early stage in the study of the issue, it only formulates a hypothesis.
– Scientists make an educated assumption that the structure of HLA 1 really affects how a person carries a coronavirus infection, but it is impossible to say with certainty whether this is so or not until the hypothesis is tested by other studies, says Nikolai Kryuchkov. – Similar scientific research was carried out in relation to many infections, for example, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV. And it is likely that there really is such an effect. Another thing is that this is not the main factor that determines the effectiveness of the immune system’s fight against infection. This does not mean that if you are lucky with the genotype, then you will not get sick with covid or guaranteed not to die. The risks are simply reduced.
Running to the laboratory and doing a study of your genetic profile is completely pointless, the expert is sure. In addition, it is still impossible to change the genotype.
– Gene therapy drugs, of course, are already appearing. But even in the case of orphan (rare, – ed.) Diseases caused by a defect in one specific gene, such drugs do not always work and do not always provide a lifelong effect, ”recalls Nikolai Kryuchkov. – However, the scientists have done serious work and it is very good that similar studies are being carried out in Russia and other countries. They do not bear fruit immediately, it is a gradual process of obtaining knowledge from the mass of the unknown. The purpose of this research is to understand how specific immunity works in general and with COVID-19 in particular. Over time, all this can bring practical benefits for the prevention and treatment of coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
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