Changcheng Zhou, a professor of biomedical sciences at the UCR School of Medicine, will join colleagues in studying the potential impact of COVID-19 on the cardiovascular system.
Led by Dr. Tzung Hsiai, a professor at UCLA, the multidisciplinary team received funding from the American Heart Association to conduct the research.
Recent data shows COVID-19 patients with hypertension and cardiovascular disease are highly susceptible to their more severe effects, with mortality rates up to three times higher than the general population.
In collaboration with the American Heart Association COVID-19 Coordinating Center, the team will aim to address unanswered questions following the long-term effects of the coronavirus crisis on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health.
“We hope to develop SARS-CoV-2 infection in an organ-on-a-chip system to detect various levels of cytokine released by heart cells in response to COVID-19,” Zhou said. “Once established, this first-of-its-kind ‘COVID-19-on-a-chip’ can be adapted to others organ systems observed to be impacted by SARS-CoV-2 infection, including the lung, gut, kidney, and brain.”
Zhou is an expert on the molecular mechanisms involved in cardiometabolic disease. He will investigate how the SARS-CoV-2 infection induces inflammatory responses and cytokine releases in the cardiovascular system. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.
Prue Talbot, a professor of cell biology at UC Riverside, has received a seed grant to study the COVID-19-related infection of respiratory cells.
She and her team will use the funds to test the hypothesis that electronic cigarettes and nicotine increase the ACE2 receptor on respiratory epithelium, providing more binding sites for the virus and increasing the possibility of infection.
“We expect our work will help clarify if the use of tobacco products makes it more likely for an infection to occur,” Talbot said.
Angiotensin converting enzyme-2, or ACE2, is a special receptor on some cells that has attracted the attention of drug companies as a potential target for addressing the novel coronavirus.
The $25,000, six-month grant from the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program of the University of California will support the research of three graduate students.