Preprint Communication Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Capillary Regression, A Key Pathogenic Feature of COVID-19 Infection?

Version 1 : Received: 6 June 2020 / Approved: 9 June 2020 / Online: 9 June 2020 (04:12:30 CEST)

How to cite: Davis, G.E.; Griffin, C.T. Capillary Regression, A Key Pathogenic Feature of COVID-19 Infection?. Preprints 2020, 2020060115. Davis, G.E.; Griffin, C.T. Capillary Regression, A Key Pathogenic Feature of COVID-19 Infection?. Preprints 2020, 2020060115.


In this brief communication, we propose the concept that capillary regression may represent a primary pathogenic process underlying COVID-19 infection, particularly in the serious and life-threatening manifestations of the disease. We suggest that the marked elevations of pro-inflammatory mediators that are observed in these seriously ill patients may directly induce capillary regression and endothelial cell (EC) loss. Recent autopsy studies are demonstrating EC loss leading to widespread microthrombi and associated tissue damage. Recent work has indicated that interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα), and thrombin, individually and in combination, can potently cause capillary tube regression in experimental models in vitro and in vivo. Other pro-inflammatory mediators including interferon gamma (IFNγ), interleukin-4 (IL-4), and interleukin-13 (IL-13) were also shown to be pro-regressive and could be relevant mediators in COVID-19 patients. Interestingly, combinations of pharmacologic agents were identified that reduced capillary regression and protected capillary tube networks against these pro-inflammatory mediators. Such an approach might be an important therapeutic option going forward to treat key disease states where capillary regression plays a major underlying pathogenic role. Finally, if capillary regression is occurring in response to these pro-inflammatory mediators during COVID-19 infection, we suggest that combinations of blocking agents directed to these key pro-regressive mediators might be necessary to appropriately treat patients.


capillary regression; COVID-19; pro-inflammatory mediators; interleukin-1 beta; tumor necrosis factor; thrombin


Medicine and Pharmacology, Pathology and Pathobiology

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