Research on COVID-19

Facing the pandemic was only possible because scientists all over the world focused their efforts in the development of the vaccines. It was also through science that we advanced in accurate treatments and in the dissemination of protection measurements. Pequeno Príncipe values and invests in science and that is why we have launched an Ode to Science. Click here to watch.

 

The scientists from the Pelé Pequeno Príncipe Research Institute have also embraced these world movement on behalf of life and are working hard in the development of 13 research projects related to coronavirus.

Research projects related to COVID-19
One of the first major questions was to understand why the disease also affected severely, even fatally, a portion of the population that was neither elderly nor had comorbidities. One of the articles with the participation of researchers from the Institute discussed, for example, the role of different immune response profiles both in the susceptibility of some individuals to the coronavirus and in the worsening of the disease. The project is part of an effort that involves researchers around the world, the COVID Human Genetic Effort; in Brazil, it is co-coordinated by a scientist from the Research Institute.

Another initiative is developing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The project seeks an alternative form of treatment for COVID-19, through the so-called passive immunity, obtained from the F(ab’)2 fraction of immunoglobulins G (IgG) from horses that were stimulated with synthetic peptides containing identical amino acid sequences to viral proteins.

One research investigates the genetic causes associated with the coronavirus presentation variables. This study was responsible for publishing the first identified case of inborn error of metabolism as an aggravating factor for COVID-19. Autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 1 (APS1) manifested in siblings who were hospitalized for treatment at Pequeno Príncipe. Not knowing that they were part of the risk group for the virus to worsen, the boys – aged 8 and 14 – were admitted to the Hospital with severe symptoms. Inserted in the research, they had access to sophisticated molecular tests, which identified the disease, elucidating the reason for the worsening of COVID-19.

Another article reviewed the published literature on COVID-19 to understand how the immune response influences individuals’ reaction to the disease. It was found, for example, that a low count of lymphocytes and T-cells (fundamental to the immune system) was related to the worsening of the disease.

Researchers from the Research Institute are collaborating with studies of the National Genomic Network, an initiative of the Institute for Cancer Research (Ipec, abbreviation in Portuguese), located in Guarapuava (state of Paraná). The network is part of the New Arrangements for Research and Innovation in Genomics (NAPI-Genomics), an initiative launched by Araucária Foundation and the General Superintendence of Science, Technology and Higher Education (Seti) in August 2020. The project investigates genetic factors that make the individual infected with the coronavirus more or less likely to develop the most severe picture of the disease and the relationship between the genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2 in Paraná and São Paulo (compared to the global ones) with the symptoms of the disease.

Developed in partnership with the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), another study investigates samples of molecules and pieces of tissue affected by the coronavirus, to seek relationships with genetic issues in patients who died as a result of COVID-19. Samples of lung biopsies from people who died at Marcelino Champagnat Hospital, in Curitiba, were used. Research has shown different profiles of inflammatory reaction, immune response, susceptibility and lung aggravation. Their results have already been published.

Another group focuses on the impact of the inflammatory process generated by infection with SARS-CoV-2 on the development of chronic and degenerative sequelae. A higher percentage of pediatric patients with post-COVID-19 inflammatory syndrome was detected at Pequeno Príncipe Hospital, at Hospital de Clínicas at Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) and at other hospitals in Paraná, Pará and São Paulo. Interested in getting to know the problem better, a research network was created, bringing together researchers from the Research Institute, pediatricians from Hospital de Clínicas, from Pequeno Príncipe and from Rio de Janeiro, in collaboration with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) units both in Rio de January and Curitiba. The aim is to specifically study the biomarkers of the inflammatory process, using blood samples from children and more advanced methodologies.

With a focus on patient safety, some projects propose to establish chest computed tomography protocols for the evaluation of COVID-19, with an optimized dose of radiation. Thus, only the amount of radiation necessary to produce the image is used, decreasing exposure to the radioactive element.

Finally, a team is developing in vitro tools, such as a 3D artificial lung, to evaluate drug candidates against COVID-19.

Other studies
In addition to studies related to COVID-19, the Institute’s researchers develop projects in seven lines of research. Year after year, the group’s scientific production has been growing and gaining more and more prominence. Follow the evolution in the table below.

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