Cardiovascular protective properties of oxytocin against COVID-19

Life Sci. 2021 Apr 1:270:119130. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2021.119130. Epub 2021 Jan 26.


SARS-CoV-2 infection or COVID-19 has become a worldwide pandemic; however, effective treatment for COVID-19 remains to be established. Along with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), new and old cardiovascular injuries are important causes of significant morbidity and mortality in COVID-19. Exploring new approaches managing cardiovascular complications is essential in controlling the disease progression and preventing long-term complications. Oxytocin (OXT), an immune-regulating neuropeptide, has recently emerged as a strong candidate for treatment and prevention of COVID-19 pandemic. OXT carries special functions in immunologic defense, homeostasis and surveillance. It suppresses neutrophil infiltration and inflammatory cytokine release, activates T-lymphocytes, and antagonizes negative effects of angiotensin II and other key pathological events of COVID-19. Additionally, OXT can promote γ-interferon expression to inhibit cathepsin L and increases superoxide dismutase expression to reduce heparin and heparan sulphate fragmentation. Through these mechanisms, OXT can block viral invasion, suppress cytokine storm, reverse lymphocytopenia, and prevent progression to ARDS and multiple organ failures. Importantly, besides prevention of metabolic disorders associated with atherosclerosis and diabetes mellitus, OXT can protect the heart and vasculature through suppressing hypertension and brain-heart syndrome, and promoting regeneration of injured cardiomyocytes. Unlike other therapeutic agents, exogenous OXT can be used safely without the side-effects seen in remdesivir and corticosteroid. Importantly, OXT can be mobilized endogenously to prevent pathogenesis of COVID-19. This article summarizes our current understandings of cardiovascular pathogenesis caused by COVID-19, explores the protective potentials of OXT against COVID-19-associated cardiovascular diseases, and discusses challenges in applying OXT in treatment and prevention of COVID-19. CHEMICAL COMPOUNDS: Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2); atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP); cathepsin L; heparan sulphate proteoglycans (HSPGs); interferon; interleukin; oxytocin; superoxide dismutase; transmembrane serine protease isoform 2 (TMPRSS2).

Keywords: Heart; Hypothalamus; Immunology; SARS-CoV-2; Vasculature.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / complications*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / virology
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Oxytocin / adverse effects
  • Oxytocin / therapeutic use*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology


  • Oxytocin