One of the biggest mysteries surrounding COVID-19 is why it has such wildly different courses of illness for the individuals who contract it. Some people are entirely asymptomatic with no idea they’re sick while others experience severe symptoms; hospitalization; and, sadly, death. Tatiana Hurtado de Mendoza, PhD; Jeffrey Esko, PhD; Sanjay Mehta, MD; and Mark Fuster, MD, at UC San Diego are investigating why this happens—and looking for ways to leverage what they learn to create effective tools to combat COVID-19.
One of the biggest leads we have is that COVID-19 severity seems to correlate with age. That means that there may be a way to explore the body’s aging process and spot differences between young and old bodies to look for links with COVID-19 severity. Our team is investigating whether or not the amount of heparinoids found in the saliva of young and older people correlates with susceptibility to severe COVID-19 illness. They believe that the heparinoids in our saliva could act as a virus trap, possibly preventing the progression of early infection into the lung.
This is an important avenue in understanding COVID-19, but it’s also at the very leading edge of research so most traditional funding sources aren’t yet ready to support it. The data that can come out of this pilot study is vital in our effort to work with government entities such as the National Institutes of Health to fully understand if heparinoid levels in a person’s saliva can help predict how severe their illness may be if they become infected with COVID-19. Your support can give us the boost we need to perform this potentially transformative, important early stage research.
We invite you to join us at the boundary of what we know about COVID-19 as we push that boundary further. Together, we can find answers that may help save lives. Please help us move this project forward!