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Anti-Androgen Drugs for Male Baldness Could Provide Possible Breakthrough Treatment for COVID-19

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 26 Jun 2020
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A team of scientists has discovered a possible breakthrough treatment for COVID-19 while studying the genetics of the androgen receptor in male pattern baldness.

The team of researchers from Applied Biology, Inc. (Irvine, CA, USA), in collaboration with Brown University (Providence, RI, USA) and Corpometria Institute (Brazil), has published their discovery in the medical journal Dermatologic Therapy, elucidating the possible role of androgens in controlling the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 in human lung cells.

According to the scientists, the evidence to the possible implication of androgens in COVID‐19 infection severity can be found in the molecular mechanism required for SARS‐CoV‐2 infectivity. Previously, it was demonstrated that SARS‐CoV‐2 cell entry depends on priming of a viral spike surface protein by transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) present in the host. In type II pneumocytes, TMPRSS2 expression is associated with an increase in androgen receptor expression, specifically connecting androgen receptor expression to SARS‐CoV‐2, due to androgen receptor‐regulated TMPRSS2 gene promoter. Moreover, angiotensin‐converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) has been recognized as the attachment molecule to the viral spike surface protein, thus termed the “receptor of SARS‐CoV‐2”. Interestingly, ACE2 has been shown to have reduced activity by the decrease of androgen hormones (experimental orchidectomy), possibly by decreased expression of ACE2.

The researchers now plan to study the epidemiology of COVID‐19 patients that are predisposed to either lower or higher androgen receptor expression, such as, males suffering from androgenetic alopecia or benign prostatic hyperplasia. In addition, analyzing ethnic variation in androgen receptor expression may predict COVID‐19 ethnic mortality differences. Additionally, the activation of androgen receptor can be reduced by several classes of drugs including androgen receptor antagonists, androgen synthesis inhibitors, and antigonadotropins. For example, the FDA‐approved 5‐alpha reductase inhibitor finasteride has demonstrated a reduction of activation of androgen receptor in multiple tissues.

“Our earlier discovery potentially links SARS-CoV-2 infectivity to androgens, the same hormones implicated in male pattern baldness and prostate cancer,” said Andy Goren, MD, Medical Advisor to the Department of Dermatology of the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

“Based on our discovery, we hypothesize that anti-androgen drugs could potentially be used as a treatment for COVID-19,” added Carlos G. Wambier, MD, PhD, Director of Cosmetic Research at the Department of Dermatology of the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Related Links:
Applied Biology, Inc.
Brown University
Corpometria Institute

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