The first official cases of COVID-19 are roughly five months behind us and the majority of milestones we’ve reached since haven’t been overly encouraging. Global infection totals, death rates, recovery percentages and the likelihood of a loosening on quarantine clampdowns remain reasons for concern. In the background of these somber headlines are dedicated scientists and medical researchers who are forging ahead, testing new theories and shining a ray of hope through the darkness of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
Aging, a twice-monthly peer-reviewed medical journal, wants to help those who are conducting trail-blazing research as the search to squash COVID-19 outbreaks continues. Aging is accomplishing this by publishing coronavirus research through its free-to-read platform. Aging is proud of the role it can play during the ongoing pandemic and hopes that research it is currently disseminating allows medical and scientific experts to share vital findings. The general public, too, wants to know more about the coronavirus and how certain risk factors could make them more susceptible to contracting it. Aging is keeping all this in mind as new research is submitted, peer-reviewed and published.
Chronological versus biological age: Older patients have proven both more likely to contract the coronavirus and succumb to medical complications it causes. Researchers from the University of Zagreb, Harvard Medical School’s Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research and The University of New South Wales agree that “biological age is more relevant than the chronological age.” As such, “pre-existing conditions, including diabetes, CVD, hypertension, obesity and other consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle are also associated with increased mortality” related to COVID-19. Through the use of biomarkers, researchers hope to arrive at accurate assessments of biological age and, as a result, identify and aid those at higher risk.
Additional insight into aging: Researchers from the University of Salford in England state that we must consider “whether there is a functional association between COVID-19 infection and the process of chronological aging.” As discussed above, the “biological” age of a patient as determined by underlying health conditions can have a negative impact on their overall recovery. Due to the higher mortality rate among older patients, these U.K.-based researchers have proposed a deeper look at “senolytics and other anti-aging drugs may have a prominent role in preventing the transmission of the virus, as well as aid in its treatment.” Since there are anti-aging drugs that have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these researchers are hopeful that this approach will proceed quickly through clinical evaluations.
In the absence of antiviral treatments: A vaccine to promote COVID-19 immunity and prevent infection is the eventual goal of researchers across the globe. Dozens of researchers from institutions in China and New Mexico are eyeing convalescent plasma (CP), as CP “with higher antibody levels may have great effect on virus load” in other infections. The use of CP was put to the test when a 64-year-old woman in China who eventually tested positive for the virus was given the plasma. Despite receiving invasive mechanical ventilation and exhibiting severe symptoms related to the virus, her condition did not worsen beyond that point following CP transfusion. “The patient did not require mechanical ventilation 11 days after plasma transfusion, and was then transferred to a general ward,” researchers wrote.