Priyanka Saminathan, Ph.D.

What if we could uncover the biological mechanism that makes men more vulnerable to COVID-19?

My SPARK project set out to identify why men are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infectivity. We have so far identified that men tend to have increased adenosine deaminase (ADA) activity in their serum. Now rigorous training and protocol preparation that is required to work in the BSL-3 units with SARS-CoV-2 is underway. In the meantime, we have designed, prepared, and tested immune cell isolation from tissues and intra and extracellular immune cell flow cytometric panels that we will be using for our mouse studies. Also ongoing is our dosage-curve pilot experiment to test multiple ADA concentrations to identify optimal and non-lethal dosages of ADA that can be supplemented in mice.

These experiments thus far have implicated that endogenous retroviral elements (ERVs) in the blood cannot be used as a proxy for ADA activity. Our next goal is to identify how this translates to levels of IFNβ at the tissue levels which we believe is one step closer in identifying why men are more vulnerable to not only COVID-19, but to several other respiratory tract infections such as influenza, pneumococcal disease, and common colds.

SPARKing Impact: The study will provide new insight into sex-based differences in individuals’ susceptibility to severe COVID-19 with the potential to reveal new drug targets to treat the disease.