Researchers of the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (CSIC) have launched a genetic study to identify the individual risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19. The results could help prevent serious infections and uncover potential treatments.
"The objective of our study is to find out why some patients infected with coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) hardly suffer clinical involvement while others develop very serious forms of the COVID-19 disease," explains Anna Planas, researcher at the CSIC in the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona (IIBB), which coordinates the INMUGEN project. "Advanced age and the presence of chronic diseases increase the risk of having a serious reaction and needing ICU admission and even death. However, there are also younger patients without previous pathologies who develop very serious forms of the disease for current reasons unknown. We think the answer might lie in the genes, "he adds.
"The project proposes to study genes for innate immunity (which is the defense system we are born with) to explain each person's increased risk of developing severe forms of the COVID-19 disease," explains Planas.
There are small genetic variations in the normal population that may determine a different ability of people to respond to attacks caused by certain infections. "For this reason, we are going to study genetic variations focusing on innate immunity genes," says Planas. "We will study the DNA of patients with severe infection and others with mild infection. We hope that the results help to identify those people at risk of becoming seriously ill, since they are the ones who will need the most protection. And we also hope that they allow us to find molecular targets for possible treatments, "he adds.
This project is funded by the CSIC and is a collaborative effort of various multidisciplinary research teams. We will obtain samples of patients from the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona thanks to the support and collaboration of different researchers and services of this hospital. Also participating in the project are Dr. Israel Fernández-Cadenas from the Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona, and the following researchers from the CSIC: Jordi Pérez Tur, from the Valencia Institute of Biomedicine; Marta López de Diego, from the National Center for Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC); Fuencisla Matesanz, from the López-Neyra Institute of Parasitology and Biomedicine, Granada; Lara Lloret, from the Institute of Physics of Cantabria; Ignacio López Cabido, from the Galician Supercomputing Center; and Dr. Planas herself.