Struggling with after effects of COVID-19?
As post-covid recovery remains a largely unknown area and the number of people suffering from long-covid is rapidly increasing, researchers across the globe strive to expand their understanding of the SARS-COV2 virus. Recent discoveries have led to COVID-19 being classified as a vascular disease. Blood vessels play a crucial role in transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout our body and also help in taking away toxins from tissues/organs. Lining these blood vessels is a layer of cells known as the endothelium. The process of constant renewal of endothelial cells helps maintain the network of blood vessels ensuring a smooth blood-flow and subsequently, a well-functioning vascular system. Healthy endothelial cells also prevent the formation of harmful blood clots and control inflammation.
However, with a damaged endothelium the system no longer works as efficiently causing endothelial cell dysfunction, which is implicated in conditions such as heart attacks, stroke, as well as in the onset of severe neurological conditions. SARS-COV2 has enters our body by binding to ACE-2 receptors that are present on the surface of various cells in the mouth/nasal pathways. It has been reported that ACE-2 receptors are present abundantly on the endothelial cells and a higher expression of ACE-2 receptors has been suggested in lung endothelial cells.
Once the virus reaches the lungs, it binds to the ACE-2 present on the lung epithelial cells triggering an inflammatory response, these signals in-turn cause the endothelium to shut down and become dysfunctional. The endothelial cells shut down, constricting blood vessels, and causing abnormal blood clotting. In the lungs, these clots and subsequent fluid accumulation results in the lungs no longer being able to participate in gas/blood exchange. This refers to the lungs no longer being able to take away carbon dioxide from the blood vessels and transfer oxygen to them to transport oxygenated blood to different parts of the body. This causes oxygen deprivation in different parts of the body, which could then have adverse consequences to health.
Long covid is the chronic phase of this vascular disease in which long exposure to inflammation of vascular system results in lack of oxygen to organs and tissues resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and persistent cough.
Several studies collectively suggest the role of cGP in vascular remodelling. It is a molecule that supports the building of new blood vessels by normalising IGF-1 function. Thus crucial in improving blood flow, delivering essential nutrients like oxygen throughout the body, while taking away harmful toxins.