Covid-19 may affect insulin levels and cause diabetes: study

In a recent study, researchers found that coronavirus can lead to metabolic problems and sometimes even diabetes because it affects insulin signalling.

The new coronavirus is transmitted by inhaling infected droplets in the air, which first affect the lungs.

But researchers have found that its harmful effects extend beyond the lungs. In a groundbreaking study, a team in Japan says they’ve singled out a crucial gene that mediates the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the blood sugar mechanism.

Scientists from the University of Osaka published a study in the June issue of the magazine Metabolismstating that “Covid-19 can cause multiple organ damage as well as metabolic abnormalities such as hyperglycemia, insulin resistance and the onset of diabetes” by interfering with insulin signalling.

The scientists note that their aim was to “explore whether SARS-CoV-2 infection impairs the insulin/IGF signaling pathway in the host cell/tissue, and if so, its possible mechanism and association with COVID-19 pathology.” .”

They point out that “SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t just infect the respiratory tract” [tract] but also other organs and cells, including liver, adipose tissue [body fat]and pancreas.”

“Multiple organ failure contributes critically to the severity and mortality of Covid-19, but the molecular mechanisms have not been fully explained,” she added.

“The insulin/IGF [insulin-like growth factor] signaling pathway is a key pathway in the regulation of energy metabolism and cell survival,” said Jihoon Shin, lead author of the study. “Therefore, we suspected that SARS-CoV-2 influences this signaling pathway to cause problems with blood sugar regulation.”

To test their hypothesis that coronavirus affects the insulin signaling pathway, the researchers reviewed gene expression data sets from patients, as well as in vivo (live animal) and in vitro (lab culture) models, infected with SARS-CoV-2. They mainly looked for genes that were noticeably over- or under-expressed compared to uninfected patients, animals or cells.

“The results were striking,” said Iichiro Shimomura, lead author of the study. “Infection with SARS-CoV-2 affected the expression of insulin/IGF signaling pathway components in the lung, liver, adipose tissue and pancreatic cells. In addition, these changes were partially attributed to activation of interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF1).”

The authors explained that “The high expression of IRF1 in Covid-19 patients of older age, male gender, obesity and diabetes may exacerbate the impairment of the insulin/IGF signaling pathway, potentially contributing to severe tissue damage and metabolic abnormalities. , leading to critical outcomes in Covid-19.”

“Higher basal IRF1 expression due to pathological (older age, male gender, obesity and diabetes) and/or genetic (IRF1 intron variant rs17622656-A) reasons in respiratory, metabolic and/or endocrine organs may contribute to synergistic upregulation of IRF1 in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, which may make people more vulnerable to COVID-19,” the authors continued.

Because IRF1 is elevated in elderly patients, men, obese individuals and patients with diabetes, it makes them more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection. In addition, critical coronavirus patients had higher IRF1 expression and lower insulin/IGF signaling pathway genes in their blood compared to non-critical patients.

“In the present study, we demonstrated that hormonal interventions … inhibited IRF1 gene expression and enhanced that of the insulin/IGF signaling pathway.”

“Our findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection impairs insulin/IGF signaling by increasing IRF1 expression, thereby disrupting blood sugar metabolism. Reducing IRF1 expression through treatment with factors such as dihydrotestosterone and dexamethasone may help reduce the effects of COVID-19,” Shin says.

The authors hope that this study “will be useful for a better understanding of Covid-19 pathology and for identifying therapeutic approaches.”

Covid-19 can negatively affect multiple organ systems. “Treatment strategies that could alleviate the effect of the disease on blood sugar metabolism could be vital,” notes a press release.

Some of the serious consequences of the coronavirus could be avoided in vulnerable patients through the identification of individuals from elevated risk groups and intervention to reduce IRF1 activation.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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