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Human embryo could also be susceptible to COVID-19

A new study showed that a human embryo was affected by the coronavirus as early as the second week of pregnancy. Genes that scientists believe play an important role in this were found to be active during the infection. For this reason, the researchers suspect that embryos are susceptible to COVID-19. However, this only applies if the mother falls ill. In addition, the process could potentially affect the chances of a successful pregnancy.

To what extent is a human embryo at risk from the Sars coronavirus?

wear protective masks during pregnancy against covid 19

As many studies have shown, Sars-CoV-2 not only affects the airways, but also other organs, such as the heart. Advanced age and obesity are also risk factors for complications. However, questions about the potential impact on fetus health and successful pregnancy for those infected with SARS-CoV-2 remain largely unanswered. To study the risks, a team of researchers used a newly developed technology. Thus, a human embryo could be cultured at the stage that it is normally in the mother’s body. This enabled the researchers to take a closer look at the activity of his genes.

There are large proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Spike proteins bind to ACE2, a protein receptor located on the surface of cells in the body. Both the spike protein and ACE2 are then cleaved. In this way, the genetic material of the virus can get into the host cell. Coronaviruses manipulate the host cell’s machinery so that it can replicate and spread.

coronavirus research under microscope

The researchers found expression patterns of the ACE2 genes, which provide the genetic code for the SARS-CoV-2 receptor. TMPRSS2 also provides the code for a molecule that cleaves both the viral spike protein and the ACE2 receptor and enables infection. These genes were expressed at key stages of embryonic development and in parts of the embryo. The latter accordingly develop into tissues that interact with the maternal blood supply for nutrient exchange. Gene expression requires that the DNA code is first copied into an RNA message, which then directs the synthesis of the encoded protein. This study reports on the findings of the RNA messenger substances.

Study results

representation of pregnant woman human embryo from drugs

So the work suggests that a human embryo could be susceptible to COVID-19 as early as the second week of pregnancy if the mother becomes sick. To understand whether this can really happen, it is important to know whether the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 proteins are occurring and correctly positioning themselves on the cell surfaces. If these next steps also take place, it is possible that the mother may transmit the coronavirus and thus infect the cells of the embryo. Genes encode proteins that make cells susceptible to infection with the novel coronavirus. These are expressed very early in the development of the embryo. This is an important stage in which a human embryo attaches to the womb. Then he performs a major remodeling of all of his tissues and begins to grow for the first time.

doctor shows picture of fetus in hospital to pregnant woman in bed

So COVID-19 could affect the embryo’s ability to properly implant in the uterus or affect the fetus. The team says the study, that further research using stem cell models and in non-human primates is needed to better understand the risk. They also point out that women planning offspring should try to reduce their risk of infection. However, the study results are not intended to cause undue concern. They only emphasize the importance of the precautionary measures that people can take to minimize the risk of infection.