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University of Nebraska Medical Center

Post-COVID ‘heart failure pandemic’ possible: Japan researchers

Mainichi Japan

After contracting COVID-19, patients may have higher risk of heart failure from persistent viral infection in their hearts, even without developing notable heart disease, according to study results announced by Japanese researchers on Dec. 23.

The team including researchers from Riken, Japan’s largest scientific institute, pointed out the possibility of a “heart failure pandemic” in the near future, and is stressing the need for countermeasures.

Coronavirus infection occurs when a protruding spike protein on the surface of the virus latches onto ACE2 receptors on the surface of human cells. According to the team, the ACE2 receptor is very common in the heart than other organs. Some COVID patients have reportedly had reduced cardiac function, but the mechanism’s details are not yet known.

The research team first created heart tissue using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. When a large amount of the virus was made to infect the tissue, cardiac function declined and did not recover. When 10% of the previous amount infected the tissue, a certain level of cardiac function remained, but the infection persisted for four weeks. Researchers say it’s possible that some patients won’t develop heart failure even if the infection persists.

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