Could Inhibiting the DPP4 Enzyme
Help Treat Coronavirus?
Interfering with immune response may help protect patients with type 2 diabetes
By Josh Baxt
Researchers and clinicians are scrambling to find ways to combat COVID-19, including new therapeutics and eventually a vaccine. In a commentary published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, Miller School of Medicine professor and endocrinologist Gianluca Iacobellis, M.D., Ph.D., suggests the DPP4 enzyme presents an interesting target for further research, and DPP4 inhibitors could help some COVID-19 patients.
“We potentially have a mechanism for how the virus is getting into the body,” Dr. Iacobellis said. “And we potentially have a way we can partially inhibit that mechanism. We should consider clinical trials for DPP4 for patients who have mild or moderate COVID-19 with type 2 diabetes.”
DPP4 is found throughout the body, but its activity is only partially understood. The enzyme does play significant roles in inflammatory responses and insulin regulation. DPP4 inhibitors increase insulin and GLP-1 (an intestinal hormone) secretion, and are commonly prescribed for people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Gianluca Iacobellis, M.D., Ph.D.
Early Evidence is Encouraging
Dr. Iacobellis notes that clinicians will need more data before embracing DPP4 inhibitors to treat COVID-19 patients. However, he also points out that early evidence has shown these drugs reduce inflammation. He believes the enzyme’s potential role in a COVID-19 therapeutic regimen certainly deserves further study.
“Starting with diabetes patients, we should be conducting randomized studies to test whether treating those with mild or moderate symptoms improves outcomes,” Dr. Iacobellis said. “These drugs are well tolerated and may provide therapeutic benefit.”