UK researchers analysing the effects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the Covid-19 pandemic, on the human body has provided novel insights into the nature of resilience and how we deal with stressful situations.
The research team involving physicians, chemical biologists and an authority on human nutrition, looked at Covid from a higher level than just a disease affecting the lungs and considered how the whole body deals with the various stresses the virus causes when viewed through the lens of electron exchange — also known as ‘redox’ — processes.
“Arriving at a better understanding of how the body deals with different stresses while maintaining an appropriate redox balance would put us in a better position to treat patients acutely, protect the rest of the population and control disease spread,” said Martin Feelisch, Professor of Experimental Medicine and Integrative Biology at the University of Southampton.
“While the current vaccination success story is encouraging, emerging virus mutants show the threat continues, and we need to be better prepared in the future,” said Martin Feelisch, Professor of Experimental Medicine and Integrative Biology at the University of Southampton.
Their analysis, published in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, revealed three key areas in the body’s ability to cope with the stress of viral infections.
Nutrition emerges to be of utmost importance in maintaining the necessary redox balance and provide one’s metabolism with the flexibility to adjust and combat the damaging effects of viral infection on cells and tissues.
A highly fragile layer on the surface of endothelium — the inner lining of blood vessels that provides organs with oxygen and nutrients — regulates nutrient/fluid exchange and protects blood cells from coming into close contact with the vessel wall.
Small molecules known as ‘gasotransmitters’ also play a role. These molecules are part of a body-wide system that uses circulating blood as a communication highway to inform other organs how to best respond to the mixture of stresses experienced by other parts of the body, for example how to ramp up the metabolism in the liver to deal with an infection of the lung.
Of all the molecules involved, nitric oxide appears to be fundamental in protecting the overall redox system, the researchers said.