Long-term and deep reprogramming of immune cells
The immune system’s response to infection with SARS-CoV-2 has a significant impact on the course of COVID-19 and an overactive immune response is responsible for many serious complications. A new study demonstrates the far-reaching changes that the virus causes in the innate immune system.
The research team about the first author d. Sebastian Theobald of the University Hospital Cologne examined the effect of the spike protein, a typical feature of the coronavirus, on the innate immune system. It turns out that SARS-CoV-2 infection causes “profound and long-term reprogramming of macrophages,” the researchers wrote. The results of the corresponding study were published in the specialized journal “EMBO Molecular Medicine”.
Critical release of cytokines
According to the researchers, the reason why some people with an excessive immune response to SARS-CoV-2 are still not well understood. Clearly, SARS-CoV-2 infection can lead to a massive release of inflammatory signaling substances, called cytokines, that cause severe organ damage in some infected people and lure active defense cells in tissues into a chain reaction. . How the virus releases cytokines has not been clearly established.
The response to spike protein was examined
For the first time, researchers were able to demonstrate the effect of the spike protein on the innate immune system and found that human defense cells (macrophages, also called scavenger cells) are highly stimulated by the viral spike protein to produce the inflammatory signaling substance. interleukin 1.
However, this was only the case if the macrophages of people with COVID-19 were examined in the trials. The researchers reported that macrophages from people who had not yet come into contact with SARS-CoV-2 did not react by releasing interleukin-1.
abnormal immune response
Dr. confirms. Jan Riebniker, Head of the Infectious Disease Research Laboratory at the University Hospital Cologne. The expert also sees “many starting points here to understand why some people react with an overreaction of the immune system.”
Detectable epigenetic changes
Interestingly, macrophages can still be activated very strongly by the sparse protein several weeks to months after SARS-CoV-2 infection, the researchers report. “Because macrophages have a very short lifespan of only a few days, this indicates changes in the DNA of macrophage progenitor cells,” explains Dr. Sebastian Theobald. The researchers were also able to demonstrate so-called epigenetic changes through complex sequencing experiments.
The research team continues that profound changes from macrophages to the genetic makeup of cells can now also be used to better understand the long-term consequences of COVID-19. Last but not least, the study results are also important in relation to vaccines, as the spike protein plays a major role in these vaccines.
“For the success of different vaccine formulations, it is certainly beneficial that the spike protein leads to a strong activation of the innate immune system,” says Riebnecker.
In addition, the inflammatory signaling pathway investigated here, which ultimately leads to the release of interleukin-1, is also a potential therapeutic starting point for immune-modulating therapies in severe COVID-19 cycles, and the study provides a scientific basis for this. (fp)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of the specialized medical literature, clinical guidelines and current studies and has been examined by medical professionals.
- Sebastian J. Theobald, Alexander Simonis, Theodoros Gorgomanolis, Christoph Krier, Matthias Zener, Hannah S. Isfield, Mary Christine Albert, Jason Sheen, Susan Motamini, Florian Erger, Julia Fischer, Jacob J. Malin, Jessica Gribb, Sandra Winter, Andromachee Buckley, Frederick David, Boris Paul, Philip Koehler, Kanika Vancilla, Henning Groel, Isabel Suarez, Michael Halick, Gerd Fatekenheuer, Norma Young, Oliver A. Corneli, Clara Lehmann, Peter Tessars, Hammin Altmueller, Peter Nuremberg; Florian Klein, Manuel Koch, Jan Riebnecker: Long-lived macrophage reprogramming leads to activation of protein-mediated inflammatory particles in COVID-19; In: EMBO Molecular Medicine (published June 16, 2021), embopress.org
- University Hospital Cologne: Long and Deep Reprogramming of Immune Cells (published June 16, 2021), uk-koeln.de
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.