SARS-CoV-2 can infect human myocardiocytes in vitro

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A study conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles (CA, USA), recently published in Cell Reports Medicine, has demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect myocardiocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Many COVID-19 patients experience cardiac problems, but thus far the cause of this has not been fully understood, despite inflammation, oxygen deprivation and pre-existing cardiac conditions having been implicated. However, a recent study has demonstrated that myocardiocytes may be directly infected by the virus. In addition, the myocardiocytes that were infected changed their gene expression profile, confirming the infection and the activation of cellular defense mechanisms.

“We not only uncovered that these stem cell-derived heart cells are susceptible to infection by novel coronavirus, but that the virus can also quickly divide within the heart muscle cells,” Arun Sharma (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center), first author of the study spoke of the findings. “Even more significant, the infected heart cells showed changes in their ability to beat after 72 hours of infection.”

Despite the fact the study was conducted in vitro, the findings may assist medical researchers in understanding the pathology of COVID-19, therefore aiding in the development of potential treatments of myocardial infection in COVID-19 patients. Additionally, their use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to investigate the effects of the virus may help other research groups to use stem cell-derived myocardiocytes in identifying antiviral compounds.

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The research group also discovered that treating the infected cells with an ACE2 antibody restricted the level of infection by blocking the binding of the virus to the ACE2 protein. “By blocking the ACE2 protein with an antibody, the virus is not as easily able to bind to the ACE2 protein, and thus cannot easily enter the cell,” commented Sharma. “This not only helps us understand the mechanisms of how this virus functions, but also suggests therapeutic approaches that could be used as a potential treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

This study illustrates the research benefits of using iPSCs to study human cells and illuminates the likelihood that the direct infection of myocardiocytes causes cardiac problems in COVID-19 patients.

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Sources: Sharma A, Garcia G, Wang Y et al. Human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Cell Rep. Med. doi:10.1016/j.xcrm.2020.100052 (2020); www.cedars-sinai.org/newsroom/virus-can-infect-heart-cells-in-lab-dish/

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