New Delhi: Researchers, including those of Indian-origin, have shown that the novel coronavirus can infect lab-grown cardiac muscle cells, indicating it may be possible for the virus to directly cause heart infection in COVID-19 patients. The study, published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, was based on experiments conducted in lab-grown heart muscle cells which were produced from unspecialised human stem cells.
"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," said study co-author Arun Sharma from the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute in the US.
"Even more significant, the infected heart cells showed changes in their ability to beat after 72 hours of infection," Sharma said. Although many COVID-19 patients experience heart problems, the scientists said the reasons for these symptoms are not entirely clear. They said pre-existing cardiac conditions, or inflammation and oxygen deprivation that result from the infection have all been implicated.
According to the scientists, there is only limited evidence available that the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, directly infects individual muscle cells of the heart. The current study showed that SARS-CoV-2 can infect heart cells derived from human stem-cells and change how the genes in these cells helped make proteins.