Researchers at Columbia University have found that COVID-19 infection can cause changes in the calcium channels in heart cells, causing them to malfunction. It is reported by EurekAlert.
Studies show that people with COVID-19 are 55% more likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes. They are also more likely to develop other heart problems: arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).
The researchers analyzed the heart tissue of patients with COVID-19. They observed increased inflammation, blood clots, signs of tissue scarring and death of heart cells, and changes in calcium levels. The latter was caused by a malfunction of the RyR2 protein, which controls the level of calcium ions in the heart.
Muscles, including the heart, need calcium ions to contract. Impaired control of calcium levels can cause arrhythmias or heart failure. Understanding changes at the molecular level will help identify drug targets for cardiac symptoms in COVID-19.