Blood Pressure Enzyme
may be used to treat SARS
Researchers from Canada, Austria and China may have
discovered why SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is so deadly
using laboratory mice. The principal investigator Dr. Josef Penninger,
head of the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, believes the
protein called ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) not only plays a
role in blood pressure regulation, but also may play a role in
triggering acute lung failure (acute respiratory distress syndrome). The
SARS virus uses a protein on cell surfaces as pathway to invade, as
reported to the journal Nature.
The researchers found that when the mice were infected
with the SARS corona virus, the resulting drop in ACE2 caused their
lungs to fill with fluid. ACE2 was a crucial receptor for the SARS
virus. This triggered the lungs to fail. The researchers then injected
the mice with bioengineered ACE2, which halted the SARS-induced lung
When infected with SARS the body’s protective rennin-angiotensisn
system is disrupted. This system uses enzymes to regulate fluid volume
in the body, sodium and blood pressure. The SARS virus binds ACE2, and
when the ACE2 is disabled the lungs fill with fluid. The ACE2
injections also kept the SARS from binding with normal cells.
The SARS Virus
Penninger said "It turns out that this key that SARS
is using to enter our body is actually very, very important to protect
from acute lung failure." This discovery could help people suffering
from other killer diseases also. For instance, ACE2 might be used for
treating sepsis (a blood infection), pneumonia, anthrax, human influenza
and the new possible pandemic of avian flu.
About half of the one million people with acute lung
failure each year will die from it. Many of the victims include
newborns who aspirate substances into their lungs during birth.
In 2003 774 people dies from SARS out of the 8,100
that fell ill from it. This new research was funded by the Austrian
Academy of Sciences, Austrian National Bank, Marie Curie Fellowship of
the European Union, Beijing Committee of Science and Technology,
National Natural Science Foundation of China, Joincare Corporation,
Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada Foundation for Innovation
and the German Research Council.
Best Syndication Staff Writer