Coronavirus Is Unique In Effects On The Heart, Say Researchers
There have been many studies on the effects of coronavirus on the heart ever since the pandemic broke out in March last year. Heart damage in COVID-19 patients is caused by the novel coronavirus infecting cardiac muscle cells, leading to cell death which interferes with the muscle’s contraction.
Studies since the beginning of the pandemic have linked COVID-19 with heart problems such as reduced ability to pump blood. Scientists, including those from the Washington University School of Medicine in the US, said it was unknown until now if these are directly caused by the virus infecting the organ, or due to inflammation elsewhere in the body, NDTV reported quoting PTI.
In the current research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Basic to Translational Science, they used stem cells to engineer cardiac tissue and modelled how the coronavirus infected the heart. The researchers found that viral infection not only kills heart muscle cells but destroys the muscle fibre units responsible for heart muscle contraction.
According to the scientists, this cell death and loss of heart muscle fibres can happen even in the absence of inflammation.
“Inflammation can be a second hit on top of damage caused by the virus, but the inflammation itself is not the initial cause of the heart injury,” study senior author Kory J. Lavine from the Washington University School of Medicine was quoted as saying.
Based on the study results, the researchers said the coronavirus is unique in the effect it has on the heart, especially in the immune cells that respond to the infection.
“COVID-19 is causing a different immune response in the heart compared with other viruses, and we don’t know what that means yet,” Lavine was quoted as saying.
“Even young people who had very mild symptoms can develop heart problems later on that limit their exercise capacity,” Lavine said.
“We want to understand what’s happening so we can prevent it or treat it. In the meantime, we want everyone to take this virus seriously and do their best to take precautions and stop the spread, so we don’t have an even larger epidemic of preventable heart disease in the future,” he was quoted as saying.