Scientists believe they’ve identified why heart damage is common among patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in a preliminary study.
The new research found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus Corona Virus The spike protein is able to cause injury to the heart muscle through the inflammatory process, which distinguishes it from previously known coronaviruses.
The good news is that preliminary research indicates that damage from the process, which is part of the “natural immune mechanism” of heart muscle cells, can be reduced by vaccination.
Discover the research published in 2020 Abnormal changes in the way the heart pumps In 55% of hospitalized patients, about one in seven showed signs of severe dysfunction.
“It is already known from the clinical side that COVID-19 The infection can cause heart injuries, however, what we don’t know is the mechanistic details of how this happens,” said Dr. Qiqiang Lin.
“What we suspect is that the spike protein has unknown pathological roles,” added Dr. Lin, lead author of the study and associate professor at the Masonic Medical Research Institute in Utica, New York.
Dr Lin added: “Our data shows that the SARS-CoV-2 protein causes heart muscle damage. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated and prevent this disease.”
The first line of defense against SARS-CoV-2 pathogen invasion is innate immunity, and cardiomyocytes have their own—but in the case of COVID-19 infection, the immune response “may also impair the function of cardiomyocytes” and even lead to to cell death and heart failure.
They studied another coronavirus known as HCoV-NL63, which contains a similar protein that also binds to the cell receptor ACE2 to help the virus penetrate cells.
But unlike SARS-CoV-2, the NL63 protein does not stimulate the normal immune response in heart muscle cells which can cause a lot of damage to the organ.
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“The fact that the elevated SARS-CoV-2 protein activates the natural immune response may explain the higher virulence compared to other coronaviruses,” said Dr. Lin.
During laboratory tests of heart cells cultured in dishes, the researchers observed how the spiky SARS-CoV-2 protein made cardiomyocytes much larger compared to cells without any of the spiky protein.
“We found direct evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 SAMP protein is toxic to cardiomyocytes,” explained Dr. Lin.
But the researchers caution that the mechanisms they have discovered for how the virus causes damage may not be the full picture – and that there are more questions to answer.