Glucagon like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists may help combat COVID-19 in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), according to a new study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses.

GLP-1 is an incretin hormone that regulates glucose levels in the blood through its receptor by stimulating the secretion of insulin and suppressing the secretion of glucagon. GLP-1 receptor agonists can not only help control blood sugar levels but also have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.

More specifically, recent studies have shown that they can reduce inflammation in the lungs and the production of cytokines, as well as preserve pulmonary function in mouse and rat models of lung injury.

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Based on this knowledge and since patients with COVID-19 have thickened pulmonary vascular walls, which is a feature of PAH, the authors of the study hypothesized that GLP-1 receptor agonists could help combat the pandemic, especially in patients showing signs of PAH after COVID-19 infection.

Read more about PAH etiology

“Apart from their glucose-lowering effects, GLP-1 [receptor agonists] may have broadly beneficial effects for the treatment of patients, infected with COVID-19, with or without type 2 diabetes at least by suppressing inflammatory response named ‘cytokine storm,’ ” Jong Han Lee wrote.

He added that GLP-1 receptor agonists could also be useful in patients with PAH recovering from COVID-19 infection by regulating the right ventricular systolic pressure and pulmonary vascular remodeling. However, more research is needed to confirm this hypothesis.

PAH is characterized by the remodeling of the small pulmonary arteries. This results in increased pulmonary vascular resistance and right-sided heart failure. The exact cause of the disease is not known but it is known that some viral and parasitic infections can lead to its development in some cases.


Lee JH. Potential therapeutic effect of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists on COVID-19-induced pulmonary arterial hypertension. Med Hypotheses. 2022;158. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2021.110739