Researchers at IBEC help identifying a drug in clinical phase that blocks the effects of SARS-Co-V2

6 Apr, 2020

IBEC researchers led by ICREA Research Professor Núria Montserrat, together with international collaborators, have identified a drug capable of blocking the effects of the SARS-Co-V2 virus, the origin of the Coronavirus 2019 disease

The treatment, which can be tested on two hundred Covid-19 patients as of today, has proven effective in mini-kidneys generated from human stem cells. Using hese organoids generated by bioengineering techniques, it has been deciphered how SARS-Co-V2 interacts and infects human kidney cells.

To carry out the study, published today in the prestigious journal Cell, the experts have used mini-kidneys created from human stem cells generated at IBEC by Nuria Montserrat’s team. These organoids, which have been obtained applying bioengineering techniques, reproduce the complexity of the real organ and allowed the researchers to decipher how SARS-Co-V2 interacts and infects human kidney cells. Moreover, they have validated a therapy able to reduce substantially viral load of COVID-19.

“The use of human organoids allows us to test in a very agile way the treatments that are already being used for other diseases or that are close to being validated. When time is short, these 3D structures dramatically reduce the time we would spend trying a new drug on humans” states Núria Montserrat.

Identifying an infection-inhibiting drug

First, the researchers proved that the kidney organoids contained different groups of cells that expressed ACE2 in a similar way to that seen in the native tissue, and then proceeded to infect it with SARS-CoV-2. Once they obtained these infected mini-kidneys, they applied different therapies, and, as a result of the study, they concluded that hrsACE2 (human recombinant soluble ACE2), a drug that has already passed phase 1 clinical trials (in healthy volunteers) and phase 2 (in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome), it significantly inhibits SARS-CoV-2 infections and reduces their viral load.