Watch out, colonized humans!
The deadly disease known as the Coronavirus doesn’t just cause a fever, and it doesn’t just cause respiratory problems. It appears to affect fat tissue in ways that one could never predict — including major changes in the heart’s pumping force, according to a study released on Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
JCI, which is published by the American Society for Cell Biology, reports that the researchers found that there were two independent effects of the virus, one which led to adverse changes in the blood of infected animals and another that led to changes in their pituitary gland.
What that means is that every cell in a virus may have an impact on the cells within that virus, said Justin Jenkins, the report’s lead author. In other words, our viruses could be microorganisms, lurking in us and wreaking havoc in our bodies.
And all the changes, according to the JCI study, could be caused by the virus spreading into a person’s fat tissue, affecting the cellular health of the body.
Using mice (just like you, right?) the researchers used Coronavirus to recreate a strain that normally infects livestock.
What the researchers did was to prevent the virus from infecting their laboratory animals. By doing so, the researchers were able to not only keep the animals from getting sick, but they also found that the corona virus, which has been found in outbreaks in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, could no longer control the animals’ body functions.
A sick mouse, for example, had a “clear” heart — meaning it could pump blood to other organs, but the body couldn’t pump.
Another was seen to have a “probable” heart. In other words, it was capable of helping its body pump the vital blood but it couldn’t pump enough.
For lab mice, showing evidence of dead heart tissue could indicate that the virus has weakened the muscle tissue, leading to a possible decrease in heart function. For a healthy heart, that evidence would suggest that a higher percentage of tissue is actually carrying the virus, which further implicates the cells in the cells that are then unable to pump blood properly.
Either way, the findings are “inconclusive” as to whether these changes are “correlated,” or due to the viral infection, or both.
But JCI explains:
Patients with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, usually are hospitalized soon after they’re exposed to a virus such as SARS or El Nino virus. SARS was a respiratory virus, which caused pneumonia.
Roughly 18 months after contracting the corona virus, the researchers found that the animals’ heart had not only changed, but had stopped pumping blood.
The news is eerily similar to the first report about the Coronavirus’s potential to infect the cells of other corneal tissues, which appeared in 2013.
JCI reports that two New York patients — a male doctor and a female laboratory technician — were tested for the virus after the latter was infected in March. Her healthy cornea was tested, and it came back negative.
However, her cornea did start to change, and so it was soon injected into a macaque monkey, which then got the Coronavirus — and died quickly.
“The cornea became like an injecting agent,” said Jenkins. “The virus didn’t enter the cornea and the immune system wouldn’t attack it.”
In fact, it was in the areas where cells were not exposed to the virus that it could push through the rest of the primate’s cornea.
Researchers had come to believe the same was true of human lungs, but the results of their study indicated that this is not true.
While it is not clear how the virus’s cardiac changes have an effect on human health, it is very likely that the “corona virus has the capacity to manipulate human cardiovascular function,” the JCI report says.
To read the full JCI report, click here.