New study: can corona trigger diabetes?

Anyone suffering from diabetes belongs to the corona risk groups. People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. However, the two diseases are mutually related: Those who are seriously ill with corona are very likely to develop diabetes. A new study now explains why this is so.


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Study: Corona can trigger diabetes

Chien-Ting Wu from Stanford University and an international team of researchers investigated how exactly corona and diabetes mellitus are related. The physician Matthias Matter, head of the molecular pathology department at Basel University Hospital, who was involved in the study, pointed out that about 10 to 20 percent of all patients with a severe corona course subsequently develop diabetes. The reason for this is the damage to the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas, which results in increased blood sugar.

The so far unanswered question: Is the coronavirus directly responsible for the cell damage or is the diabetes triggered by an autoimmune reaction of the body to the COVID infection?

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Diabetes as a result of COVID-19: which receptor does corona use?

According to the study, SARS-CoV-2 infects the beta cells of the pancreas and thus triggers diabetes, which is similar to type 1 diabetes. The unusual thing about it: Until now, scientists have assumed that the coronavirus mainly penetrated cells via ACE2 and its cofactor TMPRSS2. Both are, however, only rarely found in beta cells.

The study now reveals that Corona uses a different path into the cells with a view to diabetes. Instead of ACE2 or TMPRSS2, the virus docks to a receptor that is more abundant in the pancreas: das Protein Neuropilin 1. There SARS-CoV-2 multiplies and destroys the cells. The body stops producing insulin. “These results are strong evidence of the increased susceptibility of beta cells in the human pancreas to SARS-CoV2,” conclude Wu and his team.

Possible treatment method for corona-related diabetes

This seems to prove that corona-related diabetes is a direct consequence of the viral disease. “Our observations show a mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 can cause direct damage to the beta cells and thus also clinical type 1 diabetes,” said Chien-Ting Wu.

The findings suggest a treatment option: If the neuropilin 1 receptor is blocked, the infection of the beta cells and thus the development of diabetes mellitus could be prevented. However, there are no medical examinations yet.

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