Ottawa Hospital researchers join global race to treat and prevent COVID-19

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Scientists at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have joined the global race to prevent and treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Scientists at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have joined the global race to prevent and treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The research institute has launched more than a dozen COVID-19 research projects, many of them in partnership with other Canadian scientists around the world.

“Like everyone else, we are all looking at what we can do to make a difference,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart, executive vice president of research at The Ottawa Hospital. “For scientists who have the relevant expertise and technology, this is a fantastic opportunity to try to develop something that could help in the prevention, detection or treatment of this disease.

Dr. Duncan Stewart of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute is focusing on COVID-19 research.

“We are preparing for what we think will be an overwhelming number of these patients in our intensive care units,” he said Thursday, “and we want to be able to offer them as much as possible. “

Among the initiatives of the research institute:

° Infectious disease researchers are creating a local registry of COVID-19 patients to track disease profiles and the effectiveness of different treatments.

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° Dr. Carolina Ilkow and other immunotherapy experts working with cancer viruses have launched a project to use the same technology to develop a COVID-19 vaccine; they want to combine tiny pieces of the coronavirus genetic material with one of these viruses – they don’t harm people – to boost the immune system’s response.

° Dr. Stewart and a team of researchers are working to launch a clinical trial that tests the ability of polyvalent adult stem cells, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), to treat the most serious cases of COVID-19.

“We are learning more about COVID-19 every day: it is a very interesting and unique virus,” said Stewart, professor at the University of Ottawa.

In previous research, Stewart explored how MSCs can be used to control the uncontrolled immune system response during sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by the body’s reaction to a serious infection. Patients infected with COVID-19 may develop a similar condition, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), also triggered by an exaggerated immune response. In ARDS, the lungs fill with fluid due to an acute injury, said Stewart, causing severe shortness of breath.

“COVID-19 loves the lungs, it targets the lungs,” he said.

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Stewart believes that MSCs can be deployed to modulate the immune system’s response to COVID-19. MSCs are involved in repairing damaged tissue in the body and their interaction with the immune system, he said, “appears to be part of their natural healing abilities.”

He hopes to start a new clinical trial in a few weeks.

Dr. Carolina Ilkow said the research team she was involved with wanted to reuse the cancer-killing viruses they have been studying for years to target COVID-19. They plan to use these oncolytic viruses as a vehicle to program the body’s immune system to identify and destroy the coronavirus.

“These viruses are really good for expressing information, for educating new systems,” she said.

The team hopes to develop a vaccine that can be the subject of clinical trials by the end of the year.

At the same time, the National Blood Agency of Canada announced Thursday that it was part of a research group seeking approval for a national clinical trial using blood plasma taken from COVID-19 patients recovered to treat people. with the disease.

ThThe Ottawa Hospital will be one of the main sites for this clinical trial, along with the Hamilton and Toronto hospitals, if approved by Health Canada.

China, South Korea and Singapore have all used plasma from recovered patients to treat those with COVID-19, and there is evidence that this may help.

Plasma is a key blood component that contains antibodies, clotting agents and proteins; it represents more than half of the overall content of the blood.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa

People who have recovered from COVID-19 carry antibodies to the disease in their plasma to protect them from another infection. The researchers hope these same antibodies can be deployed to treat other people with the disease.

As part of the clinical trial, the plasma will be collected from voluntary blood donors in Canada who have fully recovered from COVID-19, said Dr. Dana Devine, chief scientist at Canadian Blood Services, whose head office is in Ottawa. The agency will contact potential donors among the COVID-19 patients recovered in the country.

It takes several months to complete the national clinical trial.

The Ottawa-based research initiatives were unveiled Thursday as Australian scientists launched animal testing of two potential coronavirus vaccines.

Developed by the University of Oxford and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., the vaccines have been approved for animal testing by the World Health Organization. The Australian national science agency will conduct these tests, which represent a critical step in the development of a potential vaccine. It normally takes at least a year or two to reach this stage.

The tests are expected to last three months, according to the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

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