Brussels, 11 Jul 2005
For the first time, researchers in Austria have identified an important receptor protein for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which originated in southern China in 2002 and quickly spread to six continents, killing nearly 800 people.
Previous research had identified ACE2, a protein involved in regulating blood pressure, as a potential receptor for SARS. Josef Penninger and colleagues at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna tested the theory in mice, and were able to show that SARS infection reduces ACE2 expression, resulting in damage to blood vessels in the lungs, which as a result eventually become flooded.
Furthermore, in a second paper the same team also reports that treating mice with ACE2 can protect them from lung failure brought on by another condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Both findings should help researchers to treat other diseases that affect lung function.
Professor Penninger said: 'We of course need to extend these findings in mice now to humans. Yet in essence, SARS pointed us to a protein that may help millions of people affected with a previously untreatable disease.'