Researchers are finding about half of all patients with COVID-19 admitted to an intensive care unit have heart damage.
“Patients with heart damage are at risk for life-threatening irregularities of the heart rhythm,” says Richard Becker, director of the University of Cincinnati Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute and a UC Health cardiologist. “In some instances, the heart rhythm abnormalities will occur following discharge from the ICU and in other cases after hospital discharge.”
The troubling trend of heart injury for COVID-19 patients is why a team of UC researchers is using a $50,000 mini grant from the UC College of Medicine to understand how the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the pathogen of COVID-19, impacts heart cells. Sakthivel Sadayappan, PhD, the grant’s principal investigator, Becker and Donald Lynch, MD, are leading this effort.
Researchers will convert stem cells in laboratory petri dishes into heart cells to test hypotheses about the pathogen’s mechanism, says Sadayappan, a professor and associate chair of research in the UC Department of Internal Medicine. The virus can attach to heart cells through specific connectors known as spike proteins, which give the virus its spiked appearance.