SARS-CoV-2 virus causes loss of the mucus-clearing cilia in airways aiding its spread
The infamous virus behind COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, attacks the lungs making it increasingly difficult to breathe. Researchers now investigate how using a reconstructed model of the human bronchial epithelium – the tissue that lines our airways. Infecting this tissue with SARS-CoV-2 and then using scanning electron microscopy (pictured) revealed a rapid loss of hair-like structures called cilia, which help move mucus out of the lungs. Genetic analysis showed that before these cilia were lost, the activity of a gene called FOXJ1dropped. FOXJ1 is the master controller behind ciliogenesis, the process by which cilia are formed. The loss of cilia reduced the ability of the bronchial epithelium to clear mucus. With the cilia out of the picture, the team suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may have a clearer path to spread deeper into lung tissue.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.