How a Mouse Model from Cincinnati Children’s Supported a COVID-19 Clinical Trial in China

Post Date: May 28, 2020

Cytokine Storm

Cytokine Storm

This is a microscopic photo of a blood smear from a transgenic mouse that mimics the human immune disorder, secondary HLH (hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis). The image shows macrophage immune cells (indicated by arrow) flooding healthy tissue cells during a cytokine storm caused by HLH in a very similar fashion to what occurs in patients with severe COVID-19 disease. Researchers reporting in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology say the HLH data were a factor in a decision to test the anti-inflammatory drug ruxolitinib (used to treat secondary HLH) in patients with COVID-19 in China.
Credit: Cincinnati Children’s

A transgenic mouse developed at Cincinnati Children’s to model the deadly childhood immune disease HLH (hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis) may play a key role in saving lives during the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

Scientists in Wuhan, China, recently published data in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology from a Phase II clinical study showing that the drug ruxolitinib  dramatically reversed “cytokine storm” symptoms in a small group of severely ill COVID-19 patients.


Gang Huang, PhD

The use of that drug was inspired in significant part by Cincinnati Children’s cancer pathologist Gang Huang, PhD, who is listed as a co-author in the new study. He had noticed that the immune reactions reported among many COVID-19 patients closely resembled reactions seen in a subset of children with HLH.

Huang informed long-time colleagues in Wuhan that, in experiments conducted here, ruxolitinib helped tamp down the immune over-reaction in the HLH mice. From there, the scientists in Wuhan launched a human study that shows early promising results.

Read more about Dr. Huang’s contribution