Masonic Medical Research Institute in Utica, New York, now investigates the cardiovascular implications of COVID-19. Led by Dr. Nathan Tucker, Assistant Professor, the research operation sought to better understand why at least some patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19, were dying due to heart-related conditions. With an ongoing study, the team has uncovered some insights with undoubtedly more to come. A unique research center affiliated with a New York State university system has contributed to medical research for decades.
MMRI Contributes to Community & Scientific Knowledge
MMRI has played an active role in helping this Upstate region by conducting COVID-19 testing for the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) and by actively pursuing COVID-19 related research at the institute to help understand mechanisms by which COVID-19 worsens both cardiac and pulmonary functions, identify potential novel therapeutics and understanding the long-run consequences of those COVID-19 patients who have recovered from the virus.
With several labs and core facilities, this important research center and trial site announced its participation in a COVID-19 and cardiovascular focused study in late June.
Why Cardiovascular Study?
That’s because nearly 20 percent of all COVID-19-associated deaths arise from cardiac complications. The mechanisms from which these complications arise is not certain, remaining a topic for discussion in the cardiology community. In one hypothesis, COVID-19 infection targets the heart itself but scientists aren’t sure about which cells are involved in this scenario. MMRI sought to help contribute to the answer and teamed up with Broad Institute, the University of Pennsylvania and the German pharmaceutical company Bayer (US operation) to better understand the distribution of the SARS-CoV-2 receptor in a manuscript titled “Myocyte upregulation of ACE2 in cardiovascular disease” published in the journal Circulation.
Dr. Tucker reports that the research team tested approximately 15 patients for two types of heart disease, including 1) the receptor for the virus could possibly affect the cells in the small vessels lining the heart for circulation; 2) comparing the tissue of those patients with pre-existing heart conditions to those that do not and; 3) the effects of high blood pressure medications on COVID-19 patients, reports Jazzmyn Allen with CNYHomepage.
Observations Thus Far
As reported in the local media, Dr. Tucker commented, “The cell type that’ responsible for the actual pumping action of your heart, it’s called Cardiomyocytes, in people with pre-existing conditions, had much more of this receptor.” Dr. Tucker continued that the medications used in this particular study “didn’t show a large affect” in regards to “that particular receptor for the virus.” Tucker emphasized that other studies are producing similar data. This study continues through the rest of the year.
Masonic Medical Research Institute is a research organization founded by the Grand Lodge of New York. The institute studies experimental cardiology with an emphasis on cardiac arrhythmias, ischemic heart disease and sudden cardiac death. The MMRI offers a Postdoctoral Fellowship Program as well as Predoctoral Research Training Program administered in affiliation with SUNY Update Medical University at Syracuse, New York. The research center’s vision, mission and values can be viewed here.