Oxytocin and its synthetic counterparts can help fight COVID-19.
One more substance can be added to the list of possible anti-coronavirus agents – this is oxytocin, more precisely, one of its synthetic analogues. Previously, it was believed that oxytocin is needed only for childbirth, as it acts on the muscles of the uterus. Then it turned out that he plays a big role in social relations. So, love between a mother and a child literally works on oxytocin: the nerve chains that are responsible for the feelings of the mother for the child and the child for the mother use it as a neurotransmitter.
Subsequently, it turned out that oxytocin helps to communicate not only with parents with children, but also friends and couples in love, which is why it was called the “hormone (or neurotransmitter) of love.” (However, such a name oversimplifies the picture – the “love hormone” can cause not only love, but also aggression .)
Oxytocin has other effects as well. For example, it inhibits inflammation in the genital tract and helps stop bleeding after childbirth. Synthetic oxytocin analogs are prescribed for pregnant women to avoid such postpartum complications. On the other hand, oxytocin is known to help reduce toxins and inflammation in the lungs. Finally, experiments with human cells have shown that if cells have few receptors for oxytocin and they do not perceive its signals, then they will have stronger oxidative stress and will have more inflammatory proteins.
As we all know, COVID-19 coronavirus infection is dangerous due to excessive inflammation in the lungs. By suppressing the immune inflammatory response that is too strong, many patients with severe COVID-19 can be saved. For example, this is how the steroid dexamethasone works , which suppresses the immune system, preventing the immune system from killing the patient and reducing mortality among critically ill patients with coronavirus.
Researchers at the University of Toledo suggest one of the synthetic analogs of oxytocin called carbetocin as an “anti-inflammatory” anti-inflammatory agent. This is not the only such drug, and the task of the researchers was to check which of the oxytocin analogs is the best for this.
In “covid” inflammation, the activity of various genes changes, on which the activity of immune cells and the synthesis of inflammatory signals depend. But oxytocin-like drugs also change gene activity. That is, you need to choose a drug that would change the genetic activity in the opposite way than with COVID-19. Carbetocin does this best by reducing levels of inflammatory molecules while stimulating T cells to clear the infection. What’s more, an article in Physiological Genomics says the effect of carbetocin on gene activity is similar to how genes affect lopinavir – one of the antiviral drugs that seems to be quite promising in terms of fighting the new coronavirus.
However, to be convinced of the anti-coronavirus efficacy of oxytocin and its analogues, analysis of gene activity alone is not enough. Clinical experiments are needed in which oxytocin, or carbetocin, or something similar will be administered to patients, and if the patients after that really begin to cope better with the disease, then oxytocin can rightfully be called a medicine.