Understanding COVID-19 induced inflammation and lung disease
One of the characteristics of COVID-19 is severe lung inflammation in some patients, known as the cytokine storm, which can result in acute respiratory distress. In order to understand the causes of this excessive inflammation and the possible evolution to chronic lung disease, Dr. Frauke Christ’s team at KU Leuven University in Belgium is developing an in vitro model that mimics lung anatomy and physiology allowing to follow the course of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Understanding Cellular Mechanisms
Studies by various research teams have found that when the SARS-CoV-2 virus enters the epithelial cells that line the inside of the lung, the endothelial cells that cover blood vessels stop working properly. This endothelial dysfunction is suspected of playing a major role in the morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19. Despite this, these cellular mechanisms are not well understood at this time.
Simulating Lung Function
An innovator in the field of molecular virology and gene therapy, Dr. Frauke Christ and her team plus involved contributors (KU Leuven & UZ Leuven) are developing an innovative in vitro “lung-on chip” model that closely resembles lung anatomy and physiology of the small airways. With this chip, the interactions between the endothelial cells, epithelial cells and extracellular components surrounding these structures in the human respiratory tract will be studied during a viral infection like SARS-CoV-2.
The aim is to better understand the causes of inflammation associated with COVID-19, including risk factors such as obesitas and diabetes, providing a basis for future new treatment development.
This model could be used to study the long-term effects on the lungs of patients with severe cases of COVID-19.
Dr. Frauke Christ’s team © KU Leuven
In vitro “lung-on chip” model © KU Leuven
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Study of biomarkers of Covid-19 aggravation
Anticipating treatment of patients before their condition worsens
Human and animal exposure to the SARS-Cov-2 via inhaled air
There are many questions surrounding transmission of the virus in the air responsible for Covid-19.
Predicting respiratory deterioration in severe forms of COVID-19
Measuring the biomarkers of severely affected patients to predict the disease's evolution
Identifying diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic strategies
The VirPath team, at the International Center for Infectiology Research in Lyon, has been working since early 2020 on Covid-19.