Lung under attack by COVID-19-induced cytokine storm: pathogenic mechanisms and therapeutic implications
The lung is a key target of the cytokine storm that can be triggered by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for the widespread clinical syndrome known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Indeed, in some patients, SARS-CoV-2 promotes a dysfunctional immune response that dysregulates the cytokine secretory pattern. Hypercytokinemia underlies the hyperinflammatory state leading to injury of alveolar epithelial cells and vascular endothelial cells, as well as to lung infiltration sustained by neutrophils and macrophages. Within such a pathogenic context, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and other cytokines/chemokines play a pivotal pro-inflammatory role. Therefore, cytokines and their receptors, as well as cytokine-dependent intracellular signalling pathways can be targeted by potential therapies aimed to relieve the heavy burden of cytokine storm. In particular, the anti-IL-6-receptor monoclonal antibody tocilizumab is emerging as one of the most promising pharmacologic treatments.
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