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        Immune system                                                            and Molecular, Cellular, and
                                                                                 Developmental Biology at Yale
                                                                                 and corresponding author of
        early responder can                                                      the paper. “Moreover, because
                                                                                 this RNA-based therapeutic
        combat COVID-19                                                          approach is simple and versatile,
                                                                                 our study will facilitate pandemic
                                                                                 preparedness and response
                                                                                 against future respiratory
                                                                                 pathogens sensitive to Type I
                                                                                 interferons.”

                                                                                 Typically, vaccines such as those
                                                                                 that combat COVID-19 introduce
                                                                                 harmless elements of the virus
                                                                                 to elicit T and B cell production
                                                                                 by the body’s adaptive immune
                                                                                 system, which can recognize
                                                                                 previous pathogens and mount
                                                                                 a targeted response. Treatments
                                                                                 such as monoclonal antibodies
                                                                                 also aim to mimic this later-stage
                                                                                 immune response.

                                                                                 For the new study, however, a
                                                                                 team led by first author Tianyang
                                                                                 Mao, a graduate student in
                                                                                 Iwasaki’s lab, explored whether
               Compared with a control (left), treatment with SLR14 (right) reduces the signs   compounds such as SLR14
               of inflammation and pneumonia in the lungs of SARS-CoV-2–infected mice.
               Image credit: Mao et al.                                          might activate the innate immune
                                                                                 system and protect against viral
                                                                                 infections, including COVID-19.
              simple RNA molecule            the Delta variant, currently the
              jumpstarts the immune          predominant strain of the virus in   In experiments, the researchers
               y
        A stem’s “first responders”          the United States, according to     found that a single dose of the
              s
        to viral infection and can even      the new report published in the     compound was sufficient to
        eradicate the SARS-CoV-2 virus       journal Experimental Medicine.      protect mice against severe
        in mice with chronic cases of                                            disease and death, worked
        COVID-19, a new Yale School of       If clinical trials in humans        against a variety of variants, and
        Medicine study finds.                confirm the efficacy of SLR14,      could even eradicate the virus
                                             the relatively inexpensive          from mice with chronic infections.
        The molecule, known as SLR14,        compound could help reduce
        is a simple, easy to manufacture,    COVID-19 cases in low-income        “The results of innate immune
        loop of RNA that can trigger         countries where vaccine             activation clearing chronic
        the production of interferons, a     availability is limited, the        infection were surprising and
        group of proteins produced by        researchers say. It can also        spectacular,” Iwasaki said.
        immune cells that are key to the     provide important benefits for
        body’s innate, or initial, response   immunocompromised individuals      Patent rights to SLR14 and
        to infection. Multiple studies       who are not able to create          similar compounds are owned
        have shown that COVID-19             sufficient levels of antibody-      by RIGimmune — a company
        patients who produce high levels     producing B cells and virus-        cofounded by Iwasaki and
        of interferons have far better       killing T cells.                    Anna Pyle, Sterling Professor
        outcomes than those for whom                                             of Molecular, Cellular, and
        interferon levels are low during     “SLR14 therefore holds great        Developmental Biology at Yale
        early days of infection.             promise as a new class of RNA       and a co-author of this study
                                             therapeutics that can be applied    — which is searching for novel
        Treated mice also responded          as antivirals against SARS-         agents that can combat a variety
        well to numerous variants of         CoV-2,” said Akiko Iwasaki,         of pathogens.
        SARS-CoV-2, the virus that           the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz
        causes COVID-19, including           Professor of Immunobiology          Source: Yale University



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