Questions about cholesterol levels and Covid are being answered
Since the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the scientific community has been racing to investigate the nature of the virus, its host interactions, the transmission routes, and the reasons why certain demographics are afflicted so differently.
Professor Marité Cárdenas, based at Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces, believes her research reveals a link between high cholesterol levels and the severity of the illness.
Something happens between the spike and the particle and that in turn affects the function of the particle. We need to ask, is this affect different depending on whether the individual has high or low cholesterol or other types of health conditions.
Professor Marité Cárdenas
“When you get sick with Covid, and depending on how bad the sickness is, your cholesterol levels drop, and this drop is worse for the people who are the sickest — no one really understands why this is the case.
“From our research, we know the cholesterol particles are different depending on how your health is, so if you have high cholesterol levels, high triacylglycerol levels, the particles themselves look different; it is not just their composition or their concentration, they are actually different.
“So, then the question arose, what is happening when the spike protein — that coats the virus — interacts with the cholesterol particles? And what if these interactions then affect what the cholesterol particle looks like?,” says Cárdenas.
If the hypothesis is true, then it could be the case that the extent of the change on the cholesterol particle would depend on what the particle initially looked like — the purpose of the research is to show that there was actually a change.
The research team were not mapping particular demographics of the population, but rather just looking at a randomised sample. It had already been shown that the spikes interact with the particles, but in this experiment it was demonstrated how the cholesterol particles exchanges fats with the virus and cell membranes. These experiments were carried out using neutron scattering at the Institute Laue Langevin in France.
“Something happens between the spike and the particle and that in turn affects the function of the particle. We need to ask, is this affect different depending on whether the individual has high or low cholesterol or other types of health conditions.”
Later this year, Cárdenas will start to look at this phenomenon with samples from patients with varying levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
“This opens up other questions, when we think about vaccinations, what are the vaccines doing? They are releasing the spike protein in the same way we did with our experiment, that is, free and not bound to the virus and we can see that there are side-effects in a small part of the population.
“I’ve been thinking about this, what if the side effects, or some of them, are not directly a consequence of the delivery system but rather the free spike in the body. Is the spike protein interacting with something in the HDL (high-density lipoproteins, which carry cholesterol around the body), that makes it bind stronger to the heart muscle, for example?,” asks Cárdenas.
All our organs have receptors which facilitate the recognition and exchange of molecules with cholesterol particles. If the spike protein is binding to the particle then maybe the cholesterol particles are acting as a trojan horse, proposes Cárdenas, who is looking to find a collaborator to investigate this theory.