COVID-19 Can Infect Cells in Pancreas That Make Insulin: Study

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COVID-19 Can Infect Cells in Pancreas That Make Insulin: Study

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COVID-19 can infect insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and alter their function, possibly explaining why the deadly virus triggers diabetes in people who did not have it earlier, according to studies.

Amid the pandemic, there has be a rise in the number of patients who have developed diabetes due to Covid. There have been various theories to explain this.

In order to identify which organs could be infected by Covid, Prof Shuibing Chen at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York screened various cells and organoids – lab-grown clusters of cells that mimic the function of organs, according to The Guardian.

The results showed that lung, colon, heart, liver, and pancreatic organoids could all be infected, as well as dopamine-producing brain cells.

Further experiments showed that insulin-producing beta cells within the pancreas were also susceptible, and that once infected, these cells produced less insulin.

They also produce less hormones usually manufactured by different pancreatic cells, The Guardian reported.


It's called "transdifferentiation", Prof Chen said. the results were presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

“They are basically changing their cellular fate, so instead of being hardcore beta cells which secrete a lot of insulin, they start to mix different hormones. It could provide further insight into the pathological mechanisms of Covid-19," Prof Chen was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

However, it's not clear whether the changes due to Covid infection are long-lasting, Prof Chen said.

Another research by Prof Francesco Dotta at the University of Siena in Italy and colleagues showed that people with existing diabetes or prediabetes are at greater risk of pancreatic dysfunction if they catch Covid.

These studies support the rationale that Covid could increase the risk of developing diabetes in people who are either predisposed to it, or even get it from scratch.

(With inputs from The Guardian.)

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Topics:  Diabetes   Insulin   coronavirus 

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