The name ‘cytokine’ is combination of two Greek words, cell (cyto) and movement (kinos). These are small proteins released by many different cells in the body, including those of the immune system where they coordinate the body’s response against infection and trigger inflammation.
After the 2005 outbreak of the avian H5N1 influenza virus, also known as “bird flu”, the phenomenon became more widely known. The high fatality rate was linked to an out-of-control cytokine response.
Cytokine storms are challenge for not only of covid-19 and flu but of other respiratory diseases caused by coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS. They are also associated with non-infectious diseases such as multiple sclerosis and pancreatitis.
Inflammatory processes harm cells at multiple sites throughout the body and, if unchecked, this can lead to organ failure and death, noted a team led by Dr. Patrick Couvreur at the Institute Galien Paris-Sud, in France.
Reason for cytokine storm are connections “between inflammation and oxidative stress, both processes contributing to fuel one another, thereby establishing a vicious cycle,” Couvreur’s group explained.
In their work, Couvreur’s group focused on an extremely tiny “nanoparticle” formulation of adenosine, an anti-inflammatory compound already produced naturally by the body.
It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory compound — maybe too powerful. If simply injected into the body, adenosine can trigger serious side effects, the research team said.
But the new nanotechnology approach appears to get around that, they added.
Couvreur’s team created “multi-drug nanoparticles” by adding adenosine to squalene, a type of fat also found naturally in the body. Then they “encapsulated” both in the powerful antioxidant alpha-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E.