With systems medicine against corona

In the current times, society's hope lies in research - not only on the part of the immunologists! Numerous institutes and universities have quickly adapted, established new collaborations, pooled strengths and are applying their methods and knowledge to increase knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 in many ways. The german government quickly provided large sums of research funding to support this.

Systems medicine can help to better understand the novel corona virus and the pandemic. Substantial contributions have already been made with systems medicine methods: from the automated search for drug candidates against COVID-19, the simulation of infections or the return to normality to the examinations of which cells are preferably infected and why.
The following is a selection of corona research activities by system medicine researcher - especially by e:Med scientists:


  • A huge and remarkable German wide activity is the German COVID-19 OMICS Initiative (DeCOI). Here, genome researchers collaborate to study the corona pandemic using their expertise in NGS-technologies.
    They study questions such as: How does the virus change its genome sequence? Are there co-infections occurring in addition to COVID-19? Are there genetic risk factors for COVID-19?
    Scientists from more than 22 Institutions from the NGS-field have combined in the DeCOI initiative - and there are more to come. Among them are many scientists, which are also active in e:Med projects.
    - more information: DeCoi-Webpage

  • On international level, human geneticits have grouped together in the COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative. This initiative investigates how genetic factors can impact on susceptibility, disease course and outcomes of COVID-19.
    - COVID-19 HG Webpage    - Publication on COVID-19 HG in Eur. J. Hum. Genet.

    - Professor Andre Franke from Kiel and several other scientics discovered within COVID-19 HG an association between certain blood types and respiratory failure in COVID-19 patients.
    >>> Pre-Print publication (not peer-reviewed)  Ellinghaus et al., The ABO blood group locus and a chromosome 3 gene cluster associate with SARS-CoV-2 respiratory failure in an Italian-Spanish genome-wide association analysis, medRvix

Further COVID-19 research results from scientists, which are also involved in e:Med projects and/or active in the systems medicine community:

  • Professor Roland Eils (BIH) and his colleagues are investigating, what cells the novel coronavirus attacks: Scientists used human derived cells to study which cells in the lung and bronchial tubes can be infected by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
    >>> press release BIH   >>> Publication: Soeren Lukassen et al., EMBO Journal 2020

  • Professor Michael Meyer-Hermann, head of the systems immunology department at the Helmholtz Centre for infectious research applied mathematical modelling to provide new insights into COVID-19 risk asessment.
    >>> press release HZI

  • Professor Jan Baumbach (TUM) developed a drug search software for covid-19. Research teams world wide are trying to identify, which existing drugs could be useful to treat COVID-19. The team from Jan Baumbach from the TU Munich developed an online data analysis plattform for this application. They used systems medicine and aritficial intelligence to analyze the data. 
    >>> press release TUM   >>> further information on YouTube and here

  • Professor Nina Babel (University hospital Bochum and Charité) and her team investigated, to which virus proteins the human immune system reacts.
    So far, the main focus of vaccine research was on the viral 'spike' protein, which is important for the virus to entering the cells. The scientists took a closer look at the reactive T-cell from COVID-19 patients and discovered that two other proteins - the membrane and nucleocapsid protein - also led to a strong immune response. This discovery is highly relevant for vaccine development against COVID-19.
    >>> PrePrint Paper, (not peer-reviewed): Thieme, et al., The SARS-COV-2 T-Cell Immunity is Directed Against the Spike, Membrane, and Nucleocapsid Protein and Associated with COVID 19 Severity, medRxiv, 2020

  • In an non peer-rieviewed article, Uri Alon describes the simulation of exit-strategies.
    >>> Pre-print: Karin et al., "Adaptive cyclic exit strategies to suppress COVID-19 and allow economic activity"

  • Likely entrypoint for SARS-CoV-2 (Human Cell Atlas):
    Scientists from the Human Cell Atlas Lung Biological Network identified specific cells, by which the high transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2 could be explained: Two specific ell types in the nose are lekely the entrypotin for the corona virus. Based on data from the Human Cell Atlas, a high amount of the protein which SARS-CoV-2 uses to entry the cells was discovered in goblet and ciliated cells of the nose.
    >>> press release (MDC) - Original article: Sungnak et al.,SARS-CoV-2 entry factors are highly expressed in nasal epithelial cells together with innate immune genes, Nature Medicine

  • A publication by Jan Korbel and Oliver Stegle describes the effects of the pandemic on the daily lives of life scientists based on a survey. They outline the impact of the pandemic on research progress and working conditions as well as the new chances which occur by changed communcation structures, collaborations and forms of training.
    >>> Original article: Jan O. Korbel and Oliver Stegle; Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on life scientists Genome Biology (2020) 21:113


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