Long COVID News: SARS-CoV-2 Infections Causes Epigenetic Changes That Contributes To Health Issues Seen In Long COVID!
Long COVID News
: A new study by researchers from Linköping University-Sweden has shockingly found that SARS-CoV-2 infections can lead to epigenetic changes in the human host that contributes to various medical and health conditions seen in Long COVID.
Long COVID or post-acute COVID-19 syndrome (PACS) has been defined as symptoms persisting after clearance of a COVID-19 infection.
The study team had previously demonstrated that alterations in DNA methylation (DNAm) status persist in individuals who recovered from a COVID-19 infection, but it is currently unknown if Long COVID is associated with epigenetic changes.
The study team compared DNAm patterns in patients with Long COVID with those in controls and in healthy COVID-19 convalescents and found a unique DNAm signature in Long COVID patients.
This signature unraveled modified pathways that regulate angiotensin II and muscarinic receptor signaling and protein–protein interaction networks that have bearings on vesicle formation and mitochondrial function.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Clinical Epigenetics.
This is the first study to detail a reprogramming of which genes are active, and which are not, is visible in post-COVID sufferers.
The study team found that genes associated with taste and smell, as well as cell metabolism, are affected in individuals with Long-COVID syndrome.
The study findings may ultimately contribute to the development of new diagnostic tools for this and similar diseases.
It is already known that there are many external factors that can affect which of all the genes in a cell are used at a certain point in time. The body's ability to switch genes on and off contributes to our ability to adapt to various conditions. This gene use regulation is called epigenetics.
Typically, one of the regulation mechanisms entails that a small chemical group, a methyl group, is switched on and removed from the DNA strand.
Importantly, reduced methylation of a gene may be a sign of it becoming easier for the cell to read and use, whereas high methylation most often means that the gene is not used.
The study team researchers had previously found that exposure to the tuberculosis bacteria is visible in individuals' DNA by looking at certain epigenetic changes.
For the current research, the team studied blood samples from ten individuals having had persistent post-COVID symptoms for more than 12 weeks. The most common symptoms were a feeling of not being able to draw in enough air, palpitations, muscle weakness and loss of smell and tas
These Long COVID individuals were compared with two other groups: healthy COVID-19 convalescents, and individuals who had not had COVID-19 when the samples were taken.
The study team measured the methylation pattern on 850,000 sites of the DNA and then used an algorithm that can find data similarities and differences. It turned out that the three groups differed from each other and had distinct methylation profiles.
Subsequently, the study team identified the genes that differ in methylation patterns between the groups.
Corresponding author, Dr Maria Lerm, a Professor of Medical Microbiology at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, BKV, at Linköping University told Long COVID News
staff at TMN, "Our study findings showed for example, signaling pathways that control taste and smell have been affected. This confirms that the epigenetic differences may in fact be associated with the set of symptoms and be physiologically relevant."
A past study conducted by the research group concerned individuals who had recently recovered from COVID-19 and who showed a similar epigenetic reprogramming of signaling pathways associated with taste and smell.
In the current study, the researchers also found epigenetic changes in what is known as the angiotensin-2 system in Long-COVID sufferers. This could be biologically relevant as the coronavirus which causes COVID-19, i.e., the SARS-CoV-2 virus, uses the angiotensin-2 system to enter and infect cells.
Interestingly, one of several conditions similar to Long COVID is chronic fatigue syndrome, CFS, which is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, ME.
Dr Lerm explained, "One significant finding is that we can see that the cells' energy factories, the mitochondria, are affected in the Long-COVID group. Other studies have shown that the cells' energy factories have also been affected in cases of chronic fatigue.”
To date, there is currently no diagnostic test that physicians can use to decide whether an individual has Long COVID syndrome. The study team are hoping that their recent findings can contribute to the development of diagnostic tools for healthcare providers, tools that might perhaps even make it possible to distinguish Long COVID from similar conditions.
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