News | Coronavirus (COVID-19) | July 05, 2022

How the Coronavirus Attacks the Heart

A research team at RUB has discovered the mechanisms by which the coronavirus attacks the heart – and how it could be stopped.

A medical researcher at RUB has discovered how the coronavirus enters the heart muscle cells. © Roberto Schirdewahn 


July 5, 2022 — The International Journal of Cardiology published an article on the findings of how the Coronavirus attacks the heart, which occurs mainly in patients with comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. 

Virus Detected in Heart Cells 

In order to track down the new entry mechanism, the research team at the university hospital used histochemical methods and microscopy to analyze heart tissue structures from patients suffering from COVID-19 and those who died from or with the disease. In a first step, they provided evidence that the virus can indeed be detected directly in the cells of the heart muscle. “Our observations show that the virus exerts pressure on the heart muscle, attacks and weakens the contractile force, i.e. the pumping function of the heart,” said Nazha Hamdani, head of the research department for molecular and experimental cardiology at the Bochum University Hospital

But how does the virus enter the heart? What mechanisms facilitate the penetration of the virus into the heart muscle cells? The Bochum team showed that one possible mechanism of cardiac muscle cell dysfunction in Sars-Cov-2 patients is the activation of certain enzymes that degrade proteins. In fact, the team detected an increased so-called proteolytic activity. 

This suggests that Sars-Cov-2 enters cells as a result of the activation of the spike protein by enzymes responsible for the degradation of proteins, and that its entry into cells depends on these degradation enzymes. In addition, Hamdani’s group investigated proteins that are responsible for apoptosis, i.e. cellular suicide. The team showed that while the apoptotic proteins had increased activity, their expression was drastically reduced. “This indicates that the proteins are cleaved and apoptosis is activated,” explained Hamdani. “The results imply that apoptosis contributes to the deterioration in cardiac contractility observed in Sars-Cov-2 patients.” 

The Key Role of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress 

In the next step, the team set out to explore what promotes the increased proteolytic activity and apoptosis of cardiac myocytes. The study showed that oxidative stress and a pro-inflammatory environment exacerbate the damage associated with Sars-Cov-2. The focus here was on the so-called neutrophils. Neutrophils are one of the primary cell types that release proteolytic enzymes. They play an essential role during an inflammatory response. They are rapidly mobilized from the bloodstream into the damaged tissue. Since proteolytic enzymes are released more frequently in Sars-Cov-2 patients, Hamdani’s team analyzed the signaling pathway, more specifically the interleukin-6-driven neutrophil traffic. The researchers found that inflammatory signaling pathways in cardiac myocytes were highly regulated – i.e. interleukin-6 was highly elevated – suggesting a key role for these white blood cells in COVID-19 and associated inflammatory pathologies

Alternative Gateways 

Furthermore, the Bochum-based researchers have backed the existing findings that the virus also uses the protein neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) as a gateway into the cells. Hamdani’s research shows that the coronavirus thus has several mechanisms at its disposal to spread in human organs. “Sars-Cov-2 is able to spread in the infected heart in a receptor-dependent and receptor-independent manner. We also examined another mechanism by which the virus can gain access to the heart muscle cells, thus contributing to endothelial dysfunction. We will soon be able to publish these results,” concluded Hamdani. 

For more information: https://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/en 

Related Long-COVID Content:  

MRI Sheds Light on COVID Vaccine-Associated Heart Muscle Injury  

What We Know About Cardiac Long-COVID Two Years Into the Pandemic   

VIDEO: Long-term Cardiac Impacts of COVID-19 Two Years Into The Pandemic — Interview with Aaron Baggish, M.D.  

VIDEO: Long-COVID Presentations in Cardiology at Beaumont Hospital — Interview with Justin Trivax, M.D.  

VIDEO: Cardiac Presentations in COVID Long-haulers at Cedars-Sinai Hospital — Interview with Siddharth Singh, M.D.  

Find more COVID news and videos  

Related COVID Content:  

COVID-19 Fallout May Lead to More Cancer Deaths  

Kawasaki-like Inflammatory Disease Affects Children With COVID-19  

FDA Adds Myocarditis Warning to COVID mRNA Vaccine Clinician Fact Sheets  

CMS Now Requires COVID-19 Vaccinations for Healthcare Workers by January 4  

Cardiac MRI of Myocarditis After COVID-19 Vaccination in Adolescents  

Small Number of Patients Have Myocarditis-like Illness After COVID-19 Vaccination  

Overview of Myocarditis Cases Caused by the COVID-19 Vaccine  

Case Study Describes One of the First U.S. Cases of MIS-C  

NIH-funded Project Wants to Identify Children at Risk for MIS-C From COVID-19  


Related Content

News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

October 14, 2022 — Heart Initiative, the sponsor of the STRONG-HF (Safety, Tolerability and efficacy of Rapid ...

Home October 14, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

October 11, 2022 — The preliminary results of the first-in-human (FIH) trials for the innovative ELANA Heart Bypass ...

Home October 11, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

October 4, 2022 — Lexicon Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced that a new analysis of results from the SOLOIST-WHF Phase ...

Home October 04, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

September 8, 2022 — A clinical trial led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital has found that the long-term ...

Home September 08, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

August 17, 2022 — A study carried out by scientists at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC) ...

Home August 17, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

August 12, 2022 — Older adults with atrial cardiopathy (a major, often undetected cardiac cause of stroke) may be at ...

Home August 12, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

August 8, 2022 — Two years ago, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers and colleagues reported that reductive ...

Home August 08, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

July 22, 2022 — BioSig Technologies, Inc. a medical technology company advancing electrophysiology workflow by ...

Home July 22, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

July 18, 2022 — scPharmaceuticals Inc., a pharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing products that ...

Home July 19, 2022
Home
News | Cardiovascular Clinical Studies

July 15, 2022 — Imagine, if scientists had a map of the heart, so granular in its accuracy that it even profiled details ...

Home July 15, 2022
Home
Subscribe Now