Home Medizin Neue Erkenntnisse darüber, wie Viren die Herzfunktion stören und zum plötzlichen Herztod führen

Neue Erkenntnisse darüber, wie Viren die Herzfunktion stören und zum plötzlichen Herztod führen

von NFI Redaktion

Researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC have made a groundbreaking discovery in understanding potentially deadly virus infections affecting the heart.

Traditionally, the focus has been on myocarditis, inflammation of the heart often triggered by the body’s immune response to a viral infection.

However, a new study led by Associate Professor James Smyth at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute sheds new light on this assumption, showing that the virus itself can cause potentially dangerous conditions in the heart before inflammation sets in.

This discovery, published online and expected to appear in the March 29 issue of Circulation Research, suggests novel approaches to diagnosing and treating virus infections affecting the heart.

Given the high incidence of virus-induced myocarditis leading to sudden cardiac death, this insight is crucial. Up to 42% of sudden cardiac deaths in young adults are attributed to myocarditis, with virus infections being the most common cause in these cases.

From a clinical perspective, our understanding of virus infections of the heart has focused on inflammation causing issues with heart rate or rhythm. But we have identified an acute phase in which the virus first infects the heart, before the body’s immune response triggers inflammation. Even before the tissue is inflamed, the heart is being primed for arrhythmias.“

James Smyth, Associate Professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute

To make this discovery, researchers focused on the adenovirus, a common trigger of heart infections and myocarditis, using mouse adenovirus type 3 to replicate the human infection process.

They found that at the start of the infection, the virus disrupts critical components of the heart’s communication and electrical systems.

As a result, adenoviral infection creates conditions before symptoms appear that interfere with the heart’s gap junctions and ion channels, according to virologist Rachel Padget, the study’s lead author who worked in Smyth’s lab and graduated from the Virginia Tech Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health Graduate Program simultaneously.

By targeting treatment at specific heart alterations caused by virus infections on a molecular level, researchers now aim to reduce the risk of heart issues in people fighting viral diseases.

„Individuals with acute infections may look normal on MRI and echocardiography, but when we delved into the molecular level, we saw something very dangerous could be happening,“ said Smyth. „As far as diagnostics go, we can now collaborate with our colleagues here to look for ways to analyze blood for a biomarker for the more serious problem. People constantly get heart infections and recover. But can we figure out what’s different in individual people who are at a higher risk of developing arrhythmias, potentially through a simple blood test in the doctor’s office.“

Smyth is also a member of the Department of Biological Sciences at the Virginia Tech College of Science.

The work was partly supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Seale Innovation Fund, and the Lyerly Postdoctoral Excellence Award.


Journal Reference:

Padget, RL, et al. (2024). An acute adenoviral infection triggers an arrhythmogenic substrate prior to myocarditis. Circulation Research. doi.org/10.1161/circresaha.122.322437

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