London: Genes that play an important role in allowing SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, to invade heart cells become more active with age, says a new study that joins the growing research into decoding why the elderly are most susceptible to the deadly respiratory disease.
The findings, published in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, could help explain why age is a major risk factor for dying from Covid-19 complications, with people over 70 years at greatest risk, and why the disease can cause heart complications in severe cases, including heart failure and inflammation of the heart.
“When this novel coronavirus first emerged, we expected it to be primarily a respiratory illness, as the virus usually takes hold first in the lungs,” said lead researcher Anthony Davenport, Professor at University of Cambridge.
“But as the pandemic has progressed, we’ve seen more and more COVID-19 patients – particularly older patients – affected by heart problems. This suggests that the virus is capable of invading and damaging heart cells and that something changes as we age to make this possible.”
The researchers examined cells known as cardiomyocytes to see how susceptible they were to infection by the coronavirus.
Cardiomyocytes make up the heart muscle and are able to contract and relax, enabling the heart to pump blood around the body.
Damage to these cells