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Two guests join the show today: Dr. Clive Svendsen, Director of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Arun Sharma.

In this episode, you will discover:

  • How single-cell RNA sequencing allows for the identification of the effect of SARS-coV-2 on individual heart cells of different types (e.g. endothelial, fibroblastic, support, cardiomyocytes)
  • Why people with some form of heart failure may be more susceptible than others to the SARS-CoV-2 virus
  • What clinical data is still needed in order to confirm that human cardiomyocytes in vivo are being infected by the SARS-coV-2 virus
  • About how much of the virus would be needed in order to cause cellular infection of cardiomyocytes

Dr. Clive Svendsen chairs the task force for COVID-19 at Cedars-Sinai. In the early patients with the viral infection responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, symptoms of heart problems were detected, which gave rise to the question of whether these symptoms were secondary to the infection, or indicated that the heart cells themselves were infected by the virus.

At the time, Dr. Svendsen and Dr. Sharma were studying the use of stem cells to model and treat disease.

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In the unique position of being able to mass produce human heart cells by the billions in the lab, they set out to determine whether heart cells are susceptible to the SARS-coV-2 virus.

The verdict? They found that heart cells are indeed susceptible to infection by SARS-coV-2.

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They discuss what they’re learning from additional analyses of genetic profile and function, such as the finding that in patients with heart failure, the expression of the ACE2 receptor (the same receptor associated with the COVID-19 virus) is upregulated.

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This could explain why some people with some form of heart failure may be more susceptible to the virus that’s responsible for COVID-19. In addition, it explains tissue-specific differences to susceptibility to the virus.

Dr. Svendsen and Dr. Sharma dive into the details of all of this and more, including the activation of the innate immune response by cardiomyocytes that are infected, the different responses to this infectious virus, the type of research they’re doing to determine how well the virus is proliferating on cardiomyocytes, where their research is headed, and much more.

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