Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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SARS-CoV-2- virus needs cholesterol to enter cells – potential for targeting with statins

06 July 2021

Statin the Obvious

Doctors and scientists are learning a huge amount about SARS-CoV-2 (causing COVID-19) from patients, finding surprising effects of drugs associated with other conditions. Statins are common 'blood thinners', taken to combat cholesterol and prevent clotting in patients with circulatory problems, they also seem to protect from severe COVID infection – but how? Highlighted under a high powered fluorescence microscope, these cells mimic COVID-19 infection – the virus’ spike proteins (sticking out of the green infected cell) makes contact with a protein called the ACE2 receptor on the purple cell – eventually fusing to form one cell with multiple nuclei. Such syncytia cells are common in sufferers of COVID, and may help the virus avoid the immune response. This fusion depends on cholesterol, potentially explaining how statins may help tackle the transmission of COVID and similar viruses in the future.

Written by John Ankers

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