On November 18, the research work of Dr Thirumala Devi Kanneganti, vice-chair of St Jude Immunology has been published in the peer-reviewed prestigious journal Cell. She completed her Master's degree and PhD in microbiology and immunology from Osmania University.
Most deaths that occur due to COVID-19 happen because of inflammation, which triggers lung swelling, making it difficult to breathe. In their research, immunologists from St Jude, headed by Devi Kanneganti, said they “discovered a potential strategy to prevent this life-threatening inflammation, lung damage and organ failure among COVID-19 patients”.
In a statement on the research, St Jude said “scientists identified drugs after discovering in mice that the hyper-inflammatory immune response associated with Covid-19 leads to tissue damage and multi-organ failure by triggering inflammatory cell death pathways. The researchers detailed how the inflammatory cell death signalling pathway worked, which led to potential therapies to disrupt the process”.
She further added that “Understanding such pathways and mechanism that drives inflammation is critical to developing effective treatment strategies, and this research provides that understanding. We have also identified the specific cytokines that activate the inflammatory cell death pathways and this could lead to a potential treatment for COVID-19 and other fatal diseases including sepsis."
St Jude said that, “The immunologists tried 28 cytokine combinations and found that one duo, working together, induced a form of inflammatory cell death previously described by Kanneganti as PANoptosis."
The team mainly concentrated on cytokines, the proteins that the body produces during inflammation. In COVID-19 patients, the body produces more such proteins leading to a cytokine storm. Two unique cytokines that cause inflammation and, eventually, death were found by the research team.