A new study suggests COVID-19 has the potential to infect cardiac cells, causing changes in their ability to function after just 72 hours.
The researchers found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19, was capable of infecting heart muscle cells created with stem cell technology and stored in a lab dish. They shared their findings in Cell Reports Medicine.
“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,” first author Arun Sharma, PhD, a research fellow at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
The infected heart cells changed their gene expression profile, the authors added, providing additional context about how the body attempts to combat the infection. And the stem cell-derived heart cells show potential as an effective way to identify and test new methods for treating COVID-19-related heart infections.
“This viral pandemic is predominately defined by respiratory symptoms, but there are also cardiac complications, including arrhythmias, heart failure and viral myocarditis,” senior author Clive Svendsen, PhD, director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute, said in the same statement. “While this could be the result of massive inflammation in response to the virus, our data suggest that the heart could also be directly affected by the virus in COVID-19.”