German molecular biologists have confirmed that a new type of coronavirus can penetrate into human heart cells, and also found that it can multiply in them and cause interruptions in the heartbeat. They published preliminary results of their work in the bioRxiv electronic scientific library.
“We showed that a new type of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can penetrate both individual cardiomyocytes and two different cultures of cardiac tissue. The fact that we were able to isolate full-fledged viral particles from infected cells suggests that the virus can multiply in them. The pathogen caused the mass death of cardiomyocytes and prevented them from contracting normally, that is, it poses a direct threat to the heart, ”the scientists write.
From the first days after the outbreak of a coronavirus infection, scientists know that SARS-CoV-2 affects cells not only in the lungs, but also in other tissues of the body, including inside the mucous membrane of the nose, esophagus, blood vessels and heart, as well as a number of other organs .
A similar feature of the virus, as scientists now suggest, can explain why many patients with COVID-19 suffer not only from respiratory disorders, but also lose their sense of smell and taste. In addition, they have digestive problems and malfunctioning of the circulatory system.
Observing how the virus interacted with cardiomyocytes – cardiac muscle cells, German scientists, led by Goethe Frankfurt University professor Stephanie Dimmeler, suggested what problems with the work of the heart and blood vessels with COVID-19 could be associated with.
As explained by Dimmeler and her colleagues, scientists have long been interested in how exactly the virus affects the work of the heart: directly, infecting the cells of the heart muscle, or indirectly, provoking inflammation and other disorders in the body that negatively affect the work of cardiomyocytes.
They tested both of these hypotheses by infecting with two different SARS-CoV-2 strains both individual heart cells and artificially grown samples of human heart tissue. In the past, many biologists doubted that the virus can fully reproduce in them, since cardiomyocytes practically do not produce the TMPRSS2 enzyme, which is critical for SARS-CoV-2.
The experiments of Dimmeler and her team showed that the virus can circumvent such problems and use some other biomolecules of heart cells unknown to scientists. During the experiment, both strains of the virus successfully penetrated all three types of heart cell cultures, which caused them to work worse and die in large numbers.
Similar results, according to scientists, indicate that the virus damages heart tissue directly.
This should be taken into account both in the treatment of COVID-19 carriers and in studying the possible long-term consequences of the spread of the virus in the population. It should be added that the article was not reviewed by independent experts and editors of scientific journals, as is usually the case in such cases. Therefore, conclusions from it and similar articles should be treated with caution.