UTICA, N.Y. — Dr. Nathan Tucker of the Masonic Medical Research Institute is working with other researchers to study the connection between COVID-19 and cardiac issues.
Tucker worked with the Broad Institute in Boston, the University of Pennsylvania and Bayer US to publish a report called “Myocyte upregulation of ACE2 in cardiovascular disease” in the medical journal, “Circulation.”
This report looks into how heart complications may affect people who contract coronavirus.
“When you're looking at the folks who have severe COVID bouts, cardiovascular complications are a huge part of the syndrome,” said Tucker. “So, for mortality from COVID-19, approximately 20% of those people are actually passing because of the cardiac complications, and not those because of their lungs. This study was to get insight on why that might be happening, whether its pre-existing conditions or if the virus has an opportunity to get at your heart through particular cells.”
COVID-19 infects a person’s cells through certain ACE2 molecules, according to MMRI. The researchers tested the levels of these molecules in human heart samples, using single-nucleus sequencing technologies.
The study concluded that the amount of viral receptor goes up in patients with pre-existing heart conditions, but only in beating cells, called cardiomyocytes.
They also found that ACE inhibitors, like anti-hypertension medications, do not affect the levels, so use of the medication can continue in those patients.
“This is but an early step in our understanding of cardiac pathology in people who contract COVID-19,” said Tucker. “There’s much more work to do. As an example, we are already working to establish direct evidence of cardiac infection, while also examining receptor distributions in other populations and through other approaches. We hope to provide more information as soon as we are able.”