A pilot trial led by scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA has shown decreased levels of inflammatory markers in patients with COVID-19 when using the monoclonal antibody “Foralumab.”
The research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that nasal administration of the drug Foralumab, an anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody, dampens the inflammatory T cell response, and decreases lung inflammation in COVID-19 patients.
“This is the first nasal monoclonal antibody—other monoclonal antibody treatments were delivered intravenously and are no longer given as treatment because they are not effective against currently circulating viral variants,” said Howard Weiner, MD, founder and director of the Brigham Multiple Sclerosis Center and senior author of the study in a press statement.
In COVID-19 the immune system is overactive. Foralumab works by stimulating a type of immune cells called regulatory T cells that have an anti-inflammatory effect. According to the researchers, this contrasts with other monoclonal antibodies previously used to treat COVID-19 as those only had activity against specific variants.
“Based on our studies, we expect that Foralumab may work on all variants as it acts on immune effects. This is promising for other diseases because it works on inflammation which is a major driver of many diseases,” Wiener added.
Using further analysis, the scientists determined that Foralumab had a similar effect in dampening brain inflammation in patients with multiple sclerosis, suggesting that the drug could be used to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases.
“We discovered a way to shut down inflammation not only seen in COVID-19, but also in a patient with multiple sclerosis as well as in healthy patients. This is very exciting because not only does our study suggest that this new monoclonal antibody drug is safe and can modulate the immune system without major side effects but it can also decrease inflammation in multiple realms, so it may be useful for treating other diseases, ” said Thais Moreira, PhD, instructor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study.
Moreira conducted his first Foralumab study in 2020, by administering the drug nasally to 39 patients with COVID-19 and showing decreased lung inflammation after 10 days compared to patients who didn’t receive treatment. Using gene expression analysis to identify the inflammatory pathway underlying treatment success, the team uncovered three specific genes (NKG7, TGF beB1, and GIMAP7) that are differently regulated when using Foralumab, decreasing inflammation.
“Moreira’s discovery of a common pathway and mechanism by which Foralumab modulates the immune system gives us a biomarker that we can use to monitor treatment. Next, we are going to look at studying the use of Foralumab in long COVID, larger studies of multiple sclerosis, and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease,” Wiener concluded.