Study Finds The Sex Hormone Oxytocin May Be Beneficial As An Adjuvant To Treat COVID-19 (Not Sex Though!)
: Researchers from the University of Toledo at Ohio in a new study have found that the anti-inflammatory and proimmune properties of the hormone Oxytocin can be beneficial in the management of the COVID-19 disease.
The research findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal: Physiological Genomics
(A journal of the American Physiological Society)
Now before anyone starts going around and convincing others that having sex is going to help either as a prophylaxis or to treat COVID-19 or worse start going into their ‘wanking’ modes while reading this article, please read the whole article first thoroughly and the attached research findings before resorting to any strange or uncalled actions!
According to the study team, damage to T lymphocytes along with the cytokine storm are important factors that lead to exacerbation of clinical cases. Here, the researchers are proposing intravenous oxytocin (OXT) as a candidate for adjunctive therapy for COVID-19.
OXT has anti-inflammatory and proimmune adaptive functions.
The study team used “omics” data containing genetic profiles of drugs to identify the hormone oxytocin as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
Using the Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS), the study team used the transcriptomic signature for carbetocin, an OXT agonist, and compared it to gene knockdown signatures of inflammatory (such as interleukin IL-1β and IL-6) and proimmune markers (including T cell and macrophage cell markers like CD40 and ARG1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5021139/
Importantly the study team found that carbetocin’s transcriptomic signature has a pattern of concordance with inflammation and immune marker knockdown signatures that are consistent with reduction of inflammation and promotion and sustaining of immune response. This suggests that carbetocin may have potent effects in modulating inflammation, attenuating T cell inhibition, and enhancing T cell activation.
The study findings also suggest that carbetocin is more effective at inducing immune cell responses than current medications being used in standard treatments.
Oxytocin is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland. This important hormone plays a crucial role in the childbirth process and helps with reproduction, playing its part in one’s libido and sexual performance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183515/
Oxytocin (OXT) is commonly known as the "love hormone" because it is released when people develop affectionate behavior towards each other. This is why levels of oxytocin are elevated when we start a new relationship or during sexual activity.
Medical researchers and endocrinologists already knew about the anti-inflammatory and proimmune adaptive funct
ions of OXT. Oxytocin has anti-inflammatory properties, which promote an immune response. Previous research suggests the hormone protects against toxic injury and reduces levels of inflammatory substances in the lungs. Studies have also shown that cultured human cells with reduced expression of oxytocin receptors have higher levels of inflammatory proteins and oxidative stress. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.90263.2008
A synthetic form of oxytocin, frequently known by its brand name Pitocin, is given by an IV to some individuals to help labor progress and to stop bleeding after childbirth.
The study team performed a study to investigate if the hormone could prevent "cytokine storms" in the disease's early stages during this new investigation. Thus, this new investigation proposes intravenous oxytocin (OXT) as a candidate for adjunctive therapy for COVID-19.
The study team also analyzed the characteristics of genes that have been treated with drugs closely related to oxytocin. They found how one drug, carbetocin, may promote the activation of immune response T cells and reduce the expression of the inflammatory markers that trigger cytokine storm in individuals with COVID-19.
The study team showed that the OXT analog, carbetocin, has a signature similar to the knockdown signatures of IL-6, IL-1B, NF-κB, and TNF. These inflammatory markers and proteins are key factors that can trigger a COVID-19-associated cytokine storm. In vivo this can translate into a mechanism that can oppose the cytokine storm and the associated mortality. Carbetocin’s signature was similar to drugs being investigated as an antiretrovirals in COVID-19.
Furthermore the team found that the carbetocin gene signature is discordant to the knockdown signature of CD40, ARG1, TLR9, CEACAM, CD83, CCL20, TGF-β1, and TGF-βR2. While CEACAM (16) and CCL20 (29) are involved in chemotaxis, CD40, CD83, TGF-βR2, and TLR9 are at least partially involved in T and B cell development, differentiation, and activation.
Interestingly, TLR9 typically only recognizes viral double-stranded DNA , while COVID-19 is a positive single-stranded RNA virus.
However, TLR9 has also been reported to interact with Dengue virus, which is also a positive single-stranded RNA virus. Therefore, these further indicate that OXT may play a role in activating and modulating adaptive immunity. In addition, we found the carbetocin signature is similar to the knockdown signature of CD46. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29880709/
CD46 is a complement regulatory product but also plays a role in T cell regulation. It induces the proliferation and differentiation of T regulatory 1 cells, which produce large amount of IL10 and inhibit T cell activation. Therefore, reducing CD46 expression may increase T cell activation. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18384356/
Interestingly, while carbetocin’s signature profile was in support of a T cell activation. Given that severe cases of COVID-19 are characterized by a profile of increased plasma cytokine levels and decreased levels of lymphocytes, it is very promising that OXT, with the appropriate dosage, may reverse these pathways.
These study findings corroborate the study team’s hypothesis that OXT is a potential anti-inflammatory and proimmune candidate for COVID-19 infectious disease. Oxytocin abolishes the sepsis-induced increase in TNF-α and protects against multiple organ damage. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15219651/
In humans, OXT treatment resulted in a reduction of endotoxin-induced increases in plasma cortisol, TNF- α, and IL-6, decreasing the cytokine activation caused by bacterial endotoxin. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.00459.2010
One mechanism by which OXT exerts its anti-inflammatory functions is through weakening the transition of macrophages, by acting on its receptors, into a proinflammatory mode, which results in an inhibition of NF-κB signaling. NF-κB, a transcription factor for a proinflammatory immune response, is inhibited with OXT treatment, which leads to a decreased release of TNF-α. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31519790/
OXT plays a role in inflammation and may have antimicrobial effects. OXT protects against organ damage during sepsis and aseptic global trauma in rats. Priming mesenchymal stem cells with OXT enhanced the cardiac repair in ischemia injury. It can help the body fight pathogens and increase the efficacy of antibiotics, for instance during the treatment of septic wounds. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21384587/
Also, microbiome-driven effects on accelerating wound healing in animals was shown to be mediated by an upregulation of OXT. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24205344/
Studies show that OXT treatment reduces cardiac apoptosis, fibrosis, and hypertrophy. The OXT system is downregulated in mouse models of diabetes, and OXT infusion can stimulate glucose uptake in cardiac stem cells and increase cell resistance to diabetic conditions. OXT has also been shown to stimulate cell proliferation in nontumor vaginal cell lines and increases vaginal thickness and has been reported to reduce postmenopausal vaginal atrophy.
In addition, OXT has a protective role in the heart and in the lungs. At high concentrations, OXT leads to the stimulation of the atrial natriuretic peptide release. It has been proposed that OXT and vasopressin act in concert to control the body fluid and cardiovascular homeostasis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9326674/
OXT seems to bind also to its vascular endothelial receptor of pulmonary artery and stimulate the release of calcium, which activates nitric oxide synthase and nitric oxide (NO) production and protein kinase C-dependent cellular proliferation response, leading to vasodilatory effects. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10067857/
Previous studies have reported that NO compounds inhibit SARS-coronavirus infection in vitro and that NO inhibits viral replication in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15650225/
Hence the study team has noted oxytocin's potential as a co-adjuvant treatment for coronavirus-related cytokine storms. Scientists note how "safety and efficacy of intravenous oxytocin in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 remain to be assessed."
“Understanding the mechanisms by which [oxytocin] or the [oxytocin system] can be a new immune target is crucial,” the research team wrote. However, “safety and efficacy of intravenous oxytocin in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 remains to be assessed.”
OXT could be potentially an interesting target to investigate in translational and clinical settings in the domain of infectious disease. It is a safe drug that has been used extensively in hospitals in its intravenous form (Pitocin). In contrast to glucocorticoids, it promotes adaptive immune responses and has protective properties for the heart and the lung. Pitocin is an FDA-approved drug that can be repurposed for use as an adjunctive therapy for infectious diseases. Conducting translational and clinical studies on the role of OXT in reducing inflammation and symptom severity in infectious diseases is needed.
Understanding the mechanisms by which OXT or the OXT system can be a new immune target is crucial. During clinical trials, safety profiles need to be also assessed; that includes heart rate monitoring (given the potential side effects on heart rhythm) and hyponatremia. Safety and efficacy of intravenous oxytocin in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 remain to be assessed.
Thailand Medical News would like to state that there are no studies to date to show that sex in any form helps stimulate the production of excess oxytocin sufficient enough to be beneficial in COVID-19 management, only intravenous forms have been used in the studies so far.
However should we decide to initiate any observational studies on this, we will conduct an enrolment protocol on our site for suitable study participants.
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