At Last – A Drug to Fight COVID-19!

By Shlomo Maital    

Prof. Nadir Arber

    In the end, when we defeat COVID-19,  it will be through three qualities: aspiration (driving motivation to defeat it),  inspiration (brilliant out-of-the-box creative thinking) and perspiration (hard slogging 24/7 work to implement the idea).

     And here is the latest hopeful example, from the daily Jerusalem Post:   Use existing drugs that mitigate cytokine storms…..

Twenty-nine out of 30 moderate-to-severe COVID-19 patients who were administered a treatment developed by Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital) as part of a Phase I trial recovered from the disease and were released within three to five days, the hospital said Friday.  The 30th patient also recovered but it took longer.  The patients were given Prof. Nadir Arber’s EXO-CD24 COVID-19 treatment, which is based on CD24-enriched exosomes and is meant to fight the cytokine storm that is associated with many of the world’s COVID-19 deaths.  A cytokine storm is when the immune system essentially goes into overdrive and begins attacking healthy cells. Exosomes are responsible for cell-to-cell communication. In this case, they deliver the CD24 protein to the lungs, which helps calm down the immune system.   “This protein is located on the surface of cells and has a well-known and important role in regulating the immune system,” explained Dr. Shiran Shapira, who works in Arber’s lab.

So – people die from COVID-19,  in large part because the virus causes the immune system to over-react, creating a ‘storm’ that damages the lungs, and in the end may kill.   The idea of Prof. Arber?   Treat the storm, using existing drugs that had the similar function.  It sounds obvious, but it is not.   COVID-19, after all, is a lot different from cancer. But maybe there are similarities.

 Here is another piece from the article:

“Arber has been researching exosomes for the better part of two decades. He said it took about six months from the time the idea of using this treatment in the battle against COVID-19 was raised until it was first tested in humans. The treatment is inhaled once a day for a few minutes at a time for five days. It directly targets the lungs, the site of the storm, as opposed to other treatments that could be given systemically and hence cause severe side effects, Arber explained.  The majority of the patients who received EXO-CD24 showed significant improvement within two days.   The hospital has appealed to the Health Ministry to move forward with further clinical trials. Once approved, the treatment can be tried on additional patients.  “This is an innovative treatment that can be produced quickly and efficiently at a low cost,” Arber explained. “Even if the vaccines do what they are supposed to, and even if no new mutations are produced, then still, in one way or another, coronavirus will remain with us.”