Obesity is a known risk factor for more severe COVID-19. One likely reason may be that the virus can infect fat cells, researchers have discovered.
In lab experiments and in autopsies of patients who died of COVID-19, they found the virus infects two types of cells found in fat tissue: mature fat cells, called adipocytes, and immune cells called macrophages.
“Infection of fat cells led to a marked inflammatory response, consistent with the type of immune response that is seen in severe cases of COVID-19,” said Dr. Catherine Blish of Stanford University School of Medicine, whose team reported the findings on bioRxiv on Monday ahead of peer review.
“These data suggest that infection of fat tissue and its associated inflammatory response may be one of the reasons why obese individuals do so poorly when infected with SARS-CoV-2,” she said.
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