Hearts collected from nearly two dozen patients who died of coronavirus at University Medical Center are offering LSU researchers clues about how the disease affects vital organs, according to new research published Tuesday in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.
When researchers began examining the 22 hearts, they expected to find evidence of heart inflammation that contributed to the deaths of patients.
Inflammation of the heart is a factor leading to death in other flu-like illnesses — and is often the primary cause of death. In early research into COVID-19, there was evidence from China that heart inflammation could be an important factor in why people died of the disease, according to Dr. Richard Vander Heide, a cardiac pathologist with LSU https://bt-hypnotise.com/ New Orleans.
But the hearts from New Orleans patients suggested otherwise.
“There was no significant myocarditis in these patients,” said Vander Heide, referring to the particular type of inflammation under study.
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Instead of inflammation, the researchers were surprised to find scattered dead cells in heart muscles. And unlike other types of coronavirus infections such as SARS, in the 22 patients LSU researchers studied there was no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 within the heart muscle cells or blood clots in the coronary arteries.
Researchers don’t know why that’s the case, but it nevertheless challenges some earlier assumptions about how coronavirus attacks the body.
The heart is still showing signs of dysfunction, but it may be a result of the heart having to work more to get blood into an injured lung, said Dr. Jay Kolls, a researcher who studies infection and inflammation at Tulane University School of Medicine, and who was not involved in the study.
(The injured lung) is stiff, so the heart has to pump harder,” Kolls said.
The research builds on a previous study from the authors of the lungs of 10 of the patients whose hearts were used in this latest study. That study, published in The Lancet, found that tiny clots in the small vessels lining the lungs of every patient contributed to their death.
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The 22 hearts were donated by the families of 10 male and 12 female patients ranging in age from 44 to 79. Nineteen were Black, one was Asian, one was Hispanic and one was White. About half were obese and half had Type 2 diabetes. Most had been treated for high blood pressure.
The research is part of a larger effort to create a database of tissues from organs affected by coronavirus. LSU https://bt-hypnotise.com/ New Orleans is collecting tissues of patients that researchers across the country are requesting, said Vander Heide. Because New Orleans was a hotspot for the virus, they were able to complete autopsies earlier than most other cities.
“Hopefully we can use our tissue database to help other investigators, physicians and people across the world to help understand and treat this disease better,” said Vander Heide. “It isn’t like any other virus that has been reported. It’s got some very unique characteristics that we’re still discovering and trying to understand.”
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Emily Woodruff covers public health for The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate as a Report For America corps member.