A biological marker called FAT in the body’s fat tissue seems to be a part of the explanation for why Coronavirus infections have been relatively rare in humans, the scientists at University of California San Francisco have found. A Japanese man infected with the coronavirus died on Thursday. In addition to the fat at the core of the viral particles, a flu-like virus can circulate in the top surface of fat cells. If the virus gets into fat cells, the surface temperature, or temperature range, of fat cells rises, according to the researchers. In the case of the Japanese man, the viral particles were in cold cells, which may explain his shortness of breath, something typically seen in people who get influenza.
The study will be published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Previous work has suggested that fat cells harbor many viruses, including the Zika virus, and that this opens up the potential for future work on developing vaccines against them. Researchers have experimented with blood or tissue samples from fat cells, and have shown that viruses were specifically targeting fat cells, rather than other tissue or organs, in lab studies. The new research is significant because the use of fat tissue to study the disease will help researchers develop better diagnostic tests. The researchers also believe that our genetic makeup may play a role in how we respond to a virus.