Exercise as medicine for COVID-19: On PPAR with emerging pharmacotherapy

Kevin S. Heffernan, Sushant M. Ranadive, Sae Young Jae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may have a metabolic origin given strong links with risk factors such as lipids and glucose and co-morbidities such as obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein mediates viral cellular entry via the ACE2 receptor. The cytoplasmic tail of this spike protein is heavily palmitoylated. Emerging studies suggest that SARS-CoV-2 alters lipid metabolism in the lung epithelial cells by modulating peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα), possibly contributing to lipotoxicity, inflammation and untoward respiratory effects. Disruption of this process may affect palmitoylation of SARS-CoV spike protein and thus infectivity and viral assembly. COVID-19 is also increasingly being recognized as a vascular disease, with several studies noting prominent systemic endothelial dysfunction. The pathogenesis of endothelial dysfunction may also be linked to COVID-19-mediated metabolic and inflammatory effects. Herein, exercise will be compared to fenofibrate as a possible therapeutic strategy to bolster resilience against (and help manage recovery from) COVID-19. This paper will explore the hypothesis that exercise may be a useful adjuvant in a setting of COVID-19 management/rehabilitation due to its effects on PPARα and vascular endothelial function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110197
JournalMedical Hypotheses
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Endothelium
  • Exercise
  • PPARα
  • Vascular


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