The Summit supercomputer in Tennessee did some major data analysis on more than 40,000 genes from 17,000 genetic samples. Its aim: to help scientists understand COVID-19. After over a week of number crunching, researchers analysed the results and then the breakthrough.
The computer had revealed a new theory about how Covid-19 impacts the body: the bradykinin hypothesis. The hypothesis provides a model that explains many aspects of COVID-19, including some of its most bizarre symptoms. It also suggests 10-plus potential treatments, many of which are already FDA approved. Jacobson’s group published their results in a paper in the journal eLife in early July.
According to the team’s findings, a COVID-19 infection generally begins when the virus enters the body through ACE2 receptors in the nose, (The receptors, which the virus is known to target, are abundant there.) The virus then proceeds through the body, entering cells in other places where ACE2 is also present: the intestines, kidneys, and heart. This likely accounts for at least some of the disease’s cardiac and GI symptoms. But once COVID-19 has established itself in the body, things start to get really interesting. According to Jacobson’s group, the data Summit analyzed shows that COVID-19 isn’t content to simply infect cells that already express lots of ACE2 receptors. Instead, it actively hijacks the body’s own systems, tricking it into upregulating ACE2 receptors in places where they’re usually expressed at low or medium levels, including the lungs.
But here’s the kicker: researchers suggested vitamin D as a potentially useful drug against the virus as it could “prove helpful by reducing levels of another compound, known as REN,” and “stop potentially deadly bradykinin storms from forming.”