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Publications of the Week

ACE-2 Expression in the Small Airway Epithelia of Smokers and COPD Patients: Implications for COVID-19

By April 20, 2020No Comments

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This week we profile a recent publication in the European Respiratory Journal from the
laboratory of Dr. Don Sin (pictured) at the UBC Centre for Heart Lung Innovation.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

We are currently evaluating host factors that make individuals susceptible to COVID-19 infection, and determining pharmacological therapies to modify these risk factors.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

We have shown for the first time that smoking, and having a disease called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), increases the number of ACE-2 protein, which is the receptor that the COVID-19 virus uses to gain entry into the host. Importantly, when smokers quit smoking, ACE-2 expression normalizes to that of never smokers.

We think that this finding may explain why smokers and those with COPD have relatively high rates of severe COVID-19 infection.

What are the next steps for this research?

We are current evaluating therapies such as inhaled corticosteroids and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) to see whether they can reduce ACE-2 levels in these high-risk groups of individuals. If we can identify such medications (which are currently available on the market), these drugs can potentially be repositioned for the treatment of COVID-19.

This work was funded by:

Our ACE-2 work is being funded by the St. Paul’s Foundation.

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