Theo Geijtenbeek, director of AII, will lead research into the possible preventive effect of the anticoagulant low molecular weight heparin against SARS-CoV-2.
Already, COVID-19 patients are now immediately administered heparin by means of injections when they are hospitalised in order to prevent blood clots. But Geijtenbeek and his group discovered that this drug also blocks the binding of the virus to cells and consequently prevents infection.
Now they want to investigate whether inhaling heparin can have a preventive effect so that, for example, healthcare personnel can use a heparin inhaler to protect themselves from infection.
The first step in the research is innovative, says a proud Geijtenbeek. Volunteers will be asked to inhale heparin via the nose. Subsequently, the researchers will remove some nasal mucosa cells (just like during a coronavirus test) and will subsequently expose these cells to the virus to investigate the antiviral effect of heparin.
Geijtenbeek: ‘We want to do it in this way to prevent the need for animal experiments and so that we can enter the clinical phase earlier. And time is an important factor in this pandemic’.
In addition, the research group will make use of a dynamic human cell model to further investigate the effect of heparin on the coronavirus infection.