JUN 29, 2021 8:00 AM PDT

The Heartbreaking Nature of COVID Revealed

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine are getting to the root of heart damage resulting from COVID-19 infections. The new study, the first of its kind, shows how the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects heart muscle cells directly, causing heart failure in a subpopulation of COVID-19 patients.

“Early on in the pandemic, we had evidence that this coronavirus can cause heart failure or cardiac injury in generally healthy people, which was alarming to the cardiology community,” explained senior author of the study, Kory J. Lavine.

However, until now, whether the damage to cardiac tissues was a result of direct infection to the heart or a secondary effect of a hyperinflammatory response was still a matter of debate in the scientific community.

Using a tissue-engineered experimental model of human heart tissue, Lavine and colleagues sought to answer this question definitively. They found that the virus affected the heart in two distinct ways: it killed muscle cells directly, while simultaneously affecting the muscle fibers that contract the heart to pump blood around the body. The team also found that these effects were independent of inflammation levels.

“Inflammation can be a second hit on top of [the] damage caused by the virus, but the inflammation itself is not the initial cause of the heart injury,” shared Lavine.

Lavine added that COVID is unique among viral infections as it triggers a different immune response in the heart.

“In general, the immune cells seen responding to other viruses tend to be associated with a relatively short disease that resolves with supportive care,” said Lavine. “But the immune cells we see in COVID-19 heart patients tend to be associated with a chronic condition that can have long-term consequences. These are associations, so we will need more research to understand what is happening.”

The team plans to follow this work with additional studies looking at COVID-related heart damage in an animal model of heart injury.

 


Sources: JACC: Basic to Translational Science, Washington University in St. Louis.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
APR 06, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
New Insight Into a Crucial Immune Cell
APR 06, 2021
New Insight Into a Crucial Immune Cell
Dendritic cells are a crucial part of the immune response; they look out for the presence of pathogenic invaders like vi ...
APR 22, 2021
Immunology
Healthy, Young People Are Getting Reinfected With COVID
APR 22, 2021
Healthy, Young People Are Getting Reinfected With COVID
If you’re young and healthy and you’ve had COVID, your body will produce protective antibodies that guard yo ...
MAY 06, 2021
Immunology
COVID Vaccines Don't Protect Everyone
MAY 06, 2021
COVID Vaccines Don't Protect Everyone
New research has revealed that COVID-19 vaccines may not work as effectively in those whose immune systems have been neg ...
JUN 07, 2021
Health & Medicine
Higher Incidence of Breast Cancer in Polluted Urban Areas
JUN 07, 2021
Higher Incidence of Breast Cancer in Polluted Urban Areas
A Taiwanese study looked at the incidence of breast cancer in areas of Taiwan with varying levels of air pollutants. Air ...
JUL 06, 2021
Immunology
New Nanotechnology Delivers RNA Drugs Only to "Bad" Immune Cells
JUL 06, 2021
New Nanotechnology Delivers RNA Drugs Only to "Bad" Immune Cells
Inflammatory conditions are linked to an overactive immune system, and resolving them therapeutically often involves cal ...
JUL 29, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
What is Ivermectin and Can it Treat COVID?
JUL 29, 2021
What is Ivermectin and Can it Treat COVID?
Lab tests in 2020 found that the widely available drug ivermectin had a weak effect on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and that unf ...
Loading Comments...