Scientists to model drug treatments

Scientists to model drug treatments

Thai scientists yesterday gave details of a new simulation project aimed at finding new ways to treat the often fatal lung inflammation in Covid-19 patients.

"This research initiative involves the use of a simulation of human lungs to test protein expression, a process necessary for the development of a new antiviral drug for use to treat patients with Covid-19," said Dr Khate Sripratak of the Central Chest Institute of Thailand (CCIT), who is leading the study.

Covid-19 relies mainly on a type of protein called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) when it enters human cells, said the doctor.

ACE2 is an enzyme attached to the outer surface, or membranes, of cells in the lungs, arteries, heart, kidney and intestines.

The human lung simulation technique used in this study is a model for testing the efficacy of drugs prepared for use on patients infected by Covid-19, with an aim to both decrease lung inflammation, a key cause of deaths in Covid-19 patients, and lower the chance of the virus binding to human cells, he said.

The project is being jointly carried out by the CCIT, Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI) and Thailand Science Research and Innovation.

Also cooperating are the Faculty of Science of Kasetsart University, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Chulalongkorn University, Faculty of Science of Mahidol University, and Chinese Academy of Sciences, said Dr Khate.

"This study will become key input in a clinical trial that will be next carried out to find new medicinal treatment for patients with Covid-19," he said.

HSRI director Dr Nopphon Chuenklin said it has become a global challenge to evaluate which medicines are most effective at treating infections while there still is no vaccine.

"The epidemiological control of the Covid-19 pandemic currently needs to be adjusted constantly as new evidence about the outbreak emerges," he said, adding that the need to find better anti-viral treatment is "urgent".

"And although the outbreak situation appears to be improving [in Thailand and some other countries], that doesn't necessarily mean we now have permanently brought it under control.

"None of the drugs currently used to treat Covid-19-infected patients has proven to be a particularly effective choice as they are drugs developed for use to treat other diseases caused by viruses such HIV, Mers and Sars," he said.

"This project is therefore aimed at finding better medical responses to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak while vaccine development and studies regarding herd immunity continue.

"Findings from this new study are expected in six months," he said.

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