An important donation to Humanitas University in support of a study coordinated by Prof. Mantovani, aiming to clarify the responses of the immune system to Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, in cooperation with virologists Elisa Vicenzi and Massimo Clementi of San Raffaele Vita-Salute University.
The aim is to lay the basis for developing diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, contributing to the solution of a global problem.
February 17, 2020 – Do innate immunity molecules with antibody-like functions recognise the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and play a protective, defensive role against infection? Can they be indicators of the progress and severity of the disease in patients? Clarifying these questions can form the basis for developing diagnostic tools, such as biomarkers of the severity of the pathology, and therapeutic tools. This is the goal of the study funded by Dolce & Gabbana and coordinated by Prof. Alberto Mantovani, Scientific Director of Humanitas and Emeritus Professor of Humanitas University. The study, at the service of global health, brings together the skills of the team led by Prof. Mantovani and Prof. Cecilia Garlanda of Humanitas University, related to the immune system, with those of Prof. Elisa Vicenzi and Massimo Clementi concerning viruses, at the San Raffaele Vita-Salute University, who were the first in Italy to isolate the pathogen responsible for SARS.
The funding of this research project by Dolce & Gabbana further strengthens the active collaboration with Humanitas University, which the Italian fashion house also supports through scholarships for students of the MedTec School, the innovative degree programme in Medicine, designed and developed by Humanitas University and Politecnico di Milano. The new degree aims to integrate and strengthen the skills of the professional figure of the medical doctor with the skills relevant to Biomedical Engineering.
“We felt we had to do something to fight this devastating virus, which started from China but is threatening all mankind. In these cases, it is important to make the right choice. This is why we thought Humanitas University would be the ideal partner, whose excellence and humanity make it a special entity, with which we have already cooperated on a scholarship project.
“In the face of these tragedies of such a vast scale, each action may seem insignificant. But Prof. Mantovani told us the African fable about a hummingbird: while all the other animals were fleeing from a fire in the forest, it flew in the opposite direction, continuing to bring water in the attempt to put out the fire. We understood that in any case it was worth doing something. Even a very small gesture can have enormous significance. Supporting scientific research is a moral duty for us, we hope our contribution will help to solve this dramatic problem”, explain Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.
Professor Mantovani has for years focused his studies on the mechanisms by which innate immunity works, our first line of defence against infections caused, for example, by viruses and bacteria. In this field he has contributed to discovering new molecules and functions: among these the family of long pentraxins, identified in the early ’90s. “These functional ancestors of antibodies, including PTX3”, he explains, “play an essential role in resistance to different classes of viruses and other pathogens, from the most common ones such as influenza to cytomegaloviruses and fungi.
“Produced by our body in response to an infection, they recognise certain classes of ‘enemies’ which come into contact with our body and facilitate their elimination, signalling them to the ‘soldiers’ of the immune system whose task it is to deal with and destroy them. The challenge now will be to see if these defence molecules present in biological fluids (including blood) are able to recognize the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and play a defensive role against infection.“ A study that can contribute to tackling a global health problem, opening the door to diagnostic interventions, such as biomarkers of disease severity, and therapeutic ones.
In this situation of global emergency, the support of Dolce & Gabbana catalyses a virtuous interaction of scientific research between two large Milanese institutions at the service of everyone’s health, in cooperation also with the “Lazzaro Spallanzani” National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Rome, a centre of excellence of this country, which is always in the front line.
The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19 – an abbreviation summarising corona, virus and disease – affects the respiratory system and causes fever, coughing, breathing difficulties and, in the most serious cases, pneumonia and a serious acute respiratory syndrome. It is similar to the SARS coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome) responsible between 2002 and 2003 for 8,000 infections and almost 800 deaths, and to that of the MERS (middle-eastern respiratory syndrome) which between 2012 and 2019 infected about 2,500 people, especially in Saudi Arabia, causing nearly 900 deaths.
“SARS-CoV-2”, explain Prof. Elisa Vicenzi and Prof. Massimo Clementi, virologists and teachers at the San Raffaele Vita-Salute University, “belongs to the large family of coronaviruses. Some members of this family cause non-serious upper respiratory tract infections, while others, such as SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and the new SARS-CoV-2, cause major diseases with a high mortality rate. The ability of some infected subjects to heal faster or have a less aggressive infection may depend on several factors, including the innate response that helps block the invasion of cells by the viruses, or stop early viral multiplication after infection. Hence the idea of testing innate immunity molecules to verify their antiviral activity and understand how they interact with SARS-CoV-2, clarifying for example whether they interfere with the response of cells infected with the virus, even with unexpected mechanisms. This could pave the way to the formulation and development of strategies useful for patients.”