By Austin Leonard
The Summit Supercomputer located in Oak Ridge, TN, has put its artificial intelligence towards the fight against COVID-19. Daniel Jacobson, chief scientist for computational systems biology at Oak Ridge National Labs, and his team of researchers fed Summit genetic data from COVID-19 samples to compare and come up with a hypothesis and potential treatment options. After a week of running the data, the researchers viewed Summit’s findings and came to the Bradykinin Hypothesis. When asked about her thoughts on the plausibility of this hypothesis, Dr. Laura Ong of the Biology department at King University stated, “This hypothesis sounds plausible but there are many individual research studies needed before we see actual evidence for this ‘Bradykinin Hypothesis’ about COVID-19 symptoms.” The good news, once verified, behind these findings is that there are several pre-existing, FDA-approved drugs that aim to fight “Bradykinin Storms.” It is believed, though untested, that these drugs can be manipulated for use in treating COVID-19 patients.
Jacobson and his team believe that they have discovered the core mechanism that explains many of the symptoms associated with COVID-19. This mechanism, outlined in the group’s new paper in the journal eLife, is centered around Bradykinin. “Bradykinin is a small signaling molecule that our immune systems use to help us fight infection. It helps develop inflammation in the body. This may sound like a bad thing, but the processes of inflammation help our immune cells to better fight off viruses and bacteria that are trying to infect us. Some of the usual responses that Bradykinin initiates are tissue swelling, artery dilation (increase in blood flow), drops in blood pressure, constriction of airways, and sometimes pain,” explains Dr. Ong. This is believed to be the main reason that causes the lungs to fill with fluids forcing patients to struggle for each breath. Bradykinin makes blood vessels more permeable, allowing fluids and gases through, which causes the lungs to swell. It is also believed that COVID-19 also upregulates the production of hyaluronic acid. Which is a liquid equivalent inconsistency to Jell-O. Due to the increased permeability of the blood vessels, it is believed that hyaluronic acid leaks into the lungs and fills them up essentially making it like trying to breathe through Jell-O.
It’s important to note that none of the following possible treatments have, as of yet, been tested. However, Jacobson’s paper lists ten possible treatments created for other conditions that could be repurposed to target COVID-19’s “Bradykinin Storms”. All of which are predicted to reduce bradykinin production. Even Vitamin D, which has been observed in many coronavirus patients as being deficient, may also play a role in future COVID-19 treatments. I asked Dr. Ong about the possibility of repurposing drugs, “it’s definitely possible, and medical professionals are really trying a lot of new strategies to fight COVID-19 in a variety of ways. But it’s also important to balance safety concerns when “repurposing” drugs for new uses. For example, there was a lot of media hype about using the existing drug hydroxychloroquine for COVID cases back in the spring, and that turned out to cause more harm than good overall when tested in scientific studies,” she replied.
“Please keep wearing your masks, distancing, and practicing good ventilation when you can. And if you feel sick, tell someone and stay away from others. If we all do this, we can stay safer as a community and continue to have class in person! COVID-19 is not a hoax and it has killed over 200,000 Americans as of today. Let’s protect each other and care for each other by following the safety precautions”, urges Dr. Ong.