IISER Bhopal scientist Proposes the Biochemical Link between COVID-19, Diabetes, and Ageing, and Proposes Therapeutic Solutions Using Existing Drugs

Press Release


Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal, Scientists have recently published a review of the biomolecular relationships among COVID-19, ageing, and diabetes.

Dr Amjad Husain, Principal Scientist, and Chief Executive Officer, Innovation and Incubation Center for Entrepreneurship (IICE), IISER Bhopal, along with researchers from The University of Arizona, USA, have presented that existing drugs used to treat diabetes, obesity and ageing can potentially be used to treat COVID-19. In addition, there are similar naturally existing biomolecules that can also be explored in combination for the COVID treatment. Their review, co-authored by Dr Udeep Chawla, Dr Manoj Kumar Kashyap and Dr Amjad Husain, has recently been published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and offers insight into future directions in COVID-19 therapeutics.

Highlighting the research, Dr Amjad Husain said, “With the nearly-two-year-long COVID-19 pandemic continuing to ravage the world, we are beginning to slowly understand the virus and its functioning.” It is now known that the effects of the viral infection are severe on ageing population and people with existing diabetic conditions. There are studies being conducted worldwide on the effects of ageing and diabetes on the short- and long-term outcomes of the COVID-19 infection.

The published review shows that at the molecular level, there are intersecting pathways that are common to diabetes, ageing, and COVID-19. All three conditions are associated with oxidative stress and lowering of the immune response and complications arising from them lead to the onset of numerous other diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, eye diseases, neuropathy (nerve diseases), and nephropathy (kidney problems).

The researchers believe that an ideal therapeutic candidate for COVID-19 should be able to target the pathways that are common to diabetes, ageing and the SARS-CoV-2 infection.  There are classes of compounds such as polyphenols found in plant-based food – curcumin (found in turmeric), and resveratrol (found in grapes), have been shown to not only slow down the ageing process but also possess anti-viral properties,” said Dr Husain. Some other polyphenols that the researchers have identified as being useful for both COVID-19 treatment and comorbidity conditions such as diabetes and ageing may include catechins (present in green tea, cocoa and berries), procyanidins (found in apples, cinnamon and grape skin), and theaflavin (found in black tea).

The researchers also present evidence of some existing potential anti-ageing drugs such as Rapamycin that can be explored for the COVID-19 treatment because of the common biochemical pathways associated with these diseases. Another such example is the drug Metformin, which is usually used to control blood sugar.

Scientists have also performed computational studies to show that lipids present in cell membranes play an important role in coronavirus infectivity. Natural compounds such as polyphenols may affect the binding of the virus to host receptors and the molecular interactions required for virus replication and release, thereby stopping the infection in its early stages.

“There is an urgent need to shortlist effective therapeutics from the existing pool of potential compounds,” as the time taken to discover a new drug and its approval takes longer said the lead researcher. The scientists believe that natural compounds such as curcumin and resveratrol, among others, and existing drugs such as metformin and Rapamycin have the potential to get tested extensively for the treatment of COVID-19 and post-coronavirus syndrome.