Embryos Could Be Vulnerable To COVID-19 In Second Week Of Pregnancy: Study
Human embryos could be susceptible to COVID-19 as early as the second week of pregnancy, if the mother gets sick, potentially affecting the chances of a successful pregnancy, according to a study.
Scientists at the UK's University of Cambridge and California Institute of Technology in the US found that genes thought to play a role in how the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects our cells have been found to be active in embryos as early as during the second week of pregnancy.
While initially recognised as causing respiratory disease, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 disease, also affects many other organs, they said.
Advanced age and obesity are risk factors for complications but questions concerning the potential effects on foetal health and successful pregnancy for those infected with SARS-CoV-2 remain largely unanswered, according to the researchers.
In the journal Open Biology, the researchers described how they used technology to culture human embryos through the stage they normally implant in the body of the mother to look at the activity - or ''expression'' - of key genes in the embryo. On the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are large ''spike'' proteins. Spike proteins bind to ACE2, a protein receptor found on the surface of cells in our body, the researchers explained. Both the spike protein and ACE2 are then cleaved, allowing genetic material from the virus to enter the host cell.