Research suggests that SARS-CoV-2 could infiltrate kidney cells of humans directly.

Up to 25 percent of patients’ COVID-19 symptoms are caused by acute kidney injuries, which is the kidneys’ equivalent of an attack on the heart. Clinicians believe that these injuries result from the immune system’s sudden release of cytokines to combat the SARS-CoV-2 viruses. The “cytokine storms” are known to cause damage to tissues and organs.

However, new research has found that SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect human kidney cells, particularly the proximal tube, which are the main gatekeepers for organs’ waste-filtering functions.

We introduced the virus onto organoids, which are surrogates that have 11 different types of cells found in kidneys. Only one cell type was infected out of all the others. If you don’t have these tubule cells in your proximal tubule or are not functioning, then your kidney cannot work. ”

Benjamin “Beno” Freedman is an associate professor of Nephrology at the University of Washington School of Medicine

Freedman was the senior author of the JCI Insight paper. Louisa Helms was the lead author. The team employed SARS-CoV-2 variants modified in the lab using a new fluorescent gene, enabling them to identify easily which kidney structures were infected.

Freedman said the team’s finding suggests that doctors should look at COVID-19-implicated kidney diseases “in the same way as we consider heart and lung diseases – that is, to monitor these organs for deterioration going forward. There is a risk of having a “long-hauler” effect that could progress to chronic kidney disease so patients who suffer from COVID-19 should consider taking a lab test at least three to twelve months after recovering to ensure their kidneys are functioning and stable, in accordance with their physician’s recommendations. ”

Clinicians aren’t able to diagnose COVID-19 patients to determine whether they are more vulnerable to kidney infections. However any pre-existing condition, such as a kidney disease is a risk factor. A COVID-19-infected kidney cannot be treated with medications. Many people affected by COVID-19 end up on dialysis temporarily to restore kidney function while they recover from the infection that caused them immediately.

Organoid cultures can also be used to determine therapies that can help the kidneys of patients recover. “Now that we have a better understanding of the role that SARS-CoV-2 plays in kidneys, we’ve been experimenting with different treatments,” Freedman said.

Journal reference:

Helms, L., and Helms, L., and. (2021). Cross-validation of the SARS-CoV-2 response in kidney organoids. JCI Insight.

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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