Body fat surrounding major organs bears increased SARS-CoV-2 virus receptor ACE2 making it more susceptible to infection and inflammation
Obesity, in addition to advanced age, male gender and diabetes, is a significant risk factor for severe COVID, and new findings might explain why. This image shows fat cells (fat droplets coloured red) covered with the cell-surface receptor for SARS-CoV-2, ACE2 (green). Studies have shown that visceral fat – the type that surrounds major organs and is linked to cardiovascular and metabolic issues – has increased production of ACE2 compared with subcutaneous fat, and is consequently especially susceptible to infection. Moreover, such infection prompts these cells to produce large amounts of inflammatory cytokines, which would likely contribute to the dysregulated inflammation seen in the very worst cases of COVID. Interestingly, while visceral fat was particularly susceptible to the original virus strain it was less so to a more recently isolated strain – a finding which may explain why some strains are more life-threatening than others, particularly with respect to obese individuals.
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