LUGANO, 6 May, 2021- Researchers have discovered a novel biomarker to identify male COVID-19 patients most at risk for ICU admission. The findings presented today at EADV's 2021 Spring Symposium, suggest that men with genetic characteristics (phenotypes) sensitive to the male sex hormone androgen, are more likely to experience severe COVID-19 disease.
Researchers were driven to study the association between the androgen receptor (AR) gene and COVID-19, after observing the disproportionate number of men hospitalised with COVID-19 presenting with androgenetic alopecia (a common form of hair-loss) compared to the expected number in a similar age-matched population (79% vs. 31-53%).
Androgenetic alopecia is known to be controlled by variations in the AR gene, which affects how sensitive the body is to androgens (hormones such as testosterone). In addition, an enzyme implicated in COVID-19 infection (TMPRSS2) is regulated by an androgen response element - meaning that it too may be affected by variations in the AR gene. As the polyglutamine repeat (CAG repeat) region located in the AR gene is associated with both androgen sensitivity and androgenetic alopecia; this research sought to identify the connection between CAG repeat region length and predisposition to increased COVID disease severity.
A prospective study of 65 hospitalised COVID-19 positive men measured the AR CAG repeat length of each man. Researchers found that male covid patients with a CAG repeat below 22 nucleotides (CAG<22) were significantly less likely to be admitted into ICU than patients with a CAG count over or equal to 22 nucleotides (CAG?22; p=0.05).
Dr. Andy Goren, Chief Medical Officer, Applied Biology, Inc., Irvine, California, USA, explains: "Our data show that longer AR CAG scores are associated with more severe COVID?19 disease and indicate that AR CAG repeat length could be used as a biomarker to help identify male COVID?19 patients most at risk for ICU admissions."
He continues, "The identification of a biomarker connected with the androgen receptor is another piece of evidence highlighting the important role of androgens in COVID-19 disease severity."
Further research conducted by Dr Andy Goren and his team, reported at the EADV Spring Symposium, explores a promising new therapy for COVID-19 using a novel androgen receptor antagonist to regulate TMPRSS2 expression and possibly treat COVID-19 patients. The results of this study were submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
"This research demonstrates the scientific value of dermatology by offering key insights into the role of genetics and its link to COVID disease. It is an excellent example of some of the pioneering abstracts being showcased at The EADV Spring Symposium this year," says Prof. Lidia Rudnicka, EADV Board Member and Professor at the Medical University of Warsaw.
Notes to Editors
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About Androgenetic Alopecia:
Androgenetic alopecia is a genetically determined, progressive loss of hair from the scalp which occurs in both men and women.1 Men usually present hair thinning in the temporal areas that advances to the crown area as the alopecia progresses.1 Women usually have more diffuse thinning on the crown area, and less commonly present with a male-type pattern towards the forehead.1 It is the most common type of hair loss, affecting approximately 50% of men over the age of 50 and around 50% of women over the age of 65. Androgenetic alopecia can also affect younger men and women.2
Founded in 1987, EADV is a leading European Dermato-Venereology Society with the important aims of improving the quality of patient care, furthering knowledge and education of dermatologists and venereologists globally through innovation, and advocating on behalf of the speciality and patients. EADV collaborates with other organisations to provide a strong and clear voice to influence the European health agenda. It is a non-profit organisation with over 7,000 members across 113 different countries in the world, providing a valuable service for every type of dermato-venereologist professional. To find out more visit https://www.eadv.org/.
About EADV Spring Symposium 2021:
EADV Spring Symposium - A New Season for Dermatology and Venereology, is one of the most important, CME-CPD accredited all-virtual events in the Dermato-Venereology calendar. The 2-day Scientific Programme is bursting with new findings and scientific breakthroughs, providing a unique opportunity to both hear the latest in Dermato-Venereology and connect with leading experts. To find out more visit https://www.eadvsymposium2021.org/.
1. BMJ. Available from: https://bestpractice.bmj.com/topics/en-gb/223. Accessed April 2021 Alopecia.org.
2. Androgenetic Alopecia. Available from: https://www.alopecia.org.uk/androgenetic-alopecia-pattern-hair-loss Accessed April 2021