LUMC scientists study lung epithelium infection in COVID-19

Thursday, 13 August

Prof. Dr. Pieter Hiemstra and Dr. Anne van der Does of the Pulmonary Diseases Department of Leiden University Medical Centre, a hDMT partner, received a grant of 500,000 euros from ZonMw and the Stichting Proefdiervrij. The money will be used to research the pulmonary epithelium at COVID-19 and to develop a Fibrosis Long-on-Chip.

The lung epithelium covers the airways and the lung vesicles and is the main cell type that is infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The team of Hiemstra and Van der Does will investigate how epithelium obtained from different anatomical locations (from nose to lung vesicle) reacts to infection with SARS-CoV-2. They will do this together with fellow researchers from the LUMC departments of Medical Microbiology, Parasitology, Cell and Chemical Biology and Intensive Care.

The research team then investigates whether there are major differences in the degree of infection and the subsequent reaction of the epithelium taken. The responses of the pulmonary epithelium to SARS-CoV-2 are also compared with the responses of the pulmonary epithelium to other pathogenic coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and less pathogenic coronaviruses. "This allows us to investigate what makes the current coronavirus special and whether it infects the respiratory tract differently than other (corona) viruses. With that knowledge, we can also ultimately better understand the long-term consequences of the current coronavirus," explains Van der Does.

Investigation of long-term lung damage
Part of the subsidy will be used to develop a Fibrose Long-on-Chip. "This chip can be used in the near future to investigate long-term lung damage at COVID-19", says Van der Does. "During the development of the chip, we are trying to develop a model in which we can mimic the effects of the current coronavirus in patients as closely as possible. With this model we then want to find out whether (long-term) lung damage, for example, can be inhibited or even prevented by means of medication".

Source: LUMC (in Dutch)

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