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

About this blog

The Research Horizons blog features news and insights about the latest discoveries and innovations developed by the scientists of Cincinnati Children's. This blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.