Research on mice has found that exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein by itself, without the rest of the virus or any viral replication, is enough to cause COVID-19-like symptoms, including severe inflammation of the lungs. Dr Pavel Solopov, Research Assistant Professor at Old Dominion University in America, who led the research, told the Medical Xpress:
Our findings show that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein causes lung injury even without the presence of intact virus. This previously unknown mechanism could cause symptoms before substantial viral replication occurs.
The researchers injected genetically modified mice with a segment of the spike protein and compared them after 72 hours with a control group injected with saline. The outcome was unmistakable, according to the Medical Xpress.
The researchers found that the genetically modified mice injected with the spike protein exhibited COVID-19-like symptoms that included severe inflammation, an influx of white blood cells into their lungs and evidence of a cytokine storm – an immune response in which the body starts to attack its own cells and tissues rather than just fighting off the virus. The mice that only received saline remained normal.
The researchers did not, according to this report, indicate whether the finding has any significance for the vaccines and their side effects. The Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all work by delivering genetic material that induces cells around the body to produce the spike protein, which the immune system then becomes primed to recognise. A question arising from this research is whether, if the spike protein is pathogenic in its own right and not just a means of gaining entry to cells, this explains any of the Covid-like side-effects of the vaccines, including some of the rare serious ones.
Other research has suggested that “the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (without the rest of the viral components) triggers cell signalling events that may promote pulmonary vascular remodelling and pulmonary arterial hypertension as well as possibly other cardiovascular complications”. These matters should continue to be investigated.
Worth reading the Medical Xpress report in full.
(Image: Using a newly developed mouse model, researchers found that exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein alone was enough to induce COVID-19-like symptoms including severe inflammation in the lungs. The left images show healthy mouse lung tissue while the right images show tissue from mouse lungs exposed to the spike protein. Credit: Pavel Solopov, Old Dominion University.)