Coronavirus: how does it affect the lungs?
Funded by the Medical Research Foundation and Asthma UK, Dr Amanda Tatler from the University of Nottingham is developing a 'breathing' copy of a lung slice in the lab, which will help researchers understand how structural changes in the lungs of people with asthma can reduce lung function over time.
However, due to the closure of labs at the University of Nottingham for all but essential COVID-19 research, Amanda's Foundation-funded work has been temporarily put on hold.
Here, Amanda explains how she's contributing to the COVID-19 response as part of the Nottingham Covid Research Group. The group, led by Professor Gisli Jenkins, brings together a diverse team of interdisciplinary researchers to investigate lung disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
"I seized the opportunity to use my skills, expertise and knowledge to try to make a difference. I have spent 14 years researching respiratory diseases, investigating the role of lung structural cells (such as epithelial cells and airway smooth muscle cells) in lung diseases including asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and viral infections. I felt this experience could make a valuable contribution to the research efforts of the group.
"We're investigating how the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) enters lung epithelial cells to cause damage, and why some people develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) following infection. We know that many people suffer relatively mild, flu-like symptoms following infection but that a minority of patients develop pneumonia and ARDS, which can be fatal. Understanding why some people develop severe disease is vital for preventing ARDS or treating it once it has developed.
"We think SARS-CoV-2 uses a cell surface receptor called ACE2 to enter cells, but this receptor is expressed at very low levels in the lung. This raises the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 might use a second receptor, either alone or in combination with ACE2, to gain entry into epithelial cells in the lung. The Nottingham group is focused on investigating whether this is the case and if so identifying the second receptor.
"I think we all have a role to play in this pandemic, whether that's caring for and treating patients, ensuring our food supply chain is maintained, ensuring the country stays digitally connected (and all the other vital key roles), staying home to protect the NHS, or in my case using my lab skills and knowledge to help further our understanding of the virus causing COVID-19."
Further information about the Nottingham Covid Research Group, including research results once available, can be found on the website.