For some time now, scientists have known that SARS-CoV-2’s distinctive “spike” proteins help the virus infect its host by latching on to healthy cells. Now, a major new study shows that the virus spike proteins (which behave very differently than those safely encoded by vaccines) also play a key role in the disease itself.
This study proves conclusively that COVID-19 is a vascular disease, demonstrating how the virus damages and attacks the vascular system on a cellular level. The findings help explain COVID-19’s wide variety of seemingly unconnected complications, and open the door for new research into more effective therapies.
Though a lot of people still think of it as a respiratory disease it is really a vascular disease and that explains why some people have strokes, and others have issues in other parts of the body. The commonality between them is that they all have vascular underpinnings.
While these weren’t a surprise, the study provides clear confirmation and an explanation of the mechanism through which the protein damages vascular cells. Previously, there was consensus that SARS-CoV-2 affects the vascular system, the details were not clear. Scientists studying other coronaviruses did suspect spike protein contributed to damaging vascular endothelial cells but now the same has been documented.
Researchers created a “pseudovirus” surrounded by SARS-CoV-2 classic crown of spike proteins, but did not contain the actual virus. Exposure to this pseudovirus resulted in damage to the lungs and arteries of an animal model, proving that the spike protein was enough to cause disease.
The team replicated this in the lab, exposing healthy endothelial cells to the spike protein which showed that the spike protein damaged the cells by binding ACE2. Though earlier studies showed a similar effect when cells were exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, this was the first study to show that the damage occurs when cells are exposed to the spike protein on its own.
Even when the replicating capabilities of the virus are removed it has a major damaging effect on the vascular cells making the virus a very dangerous opponent to the body mechanism as a whole.
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