Squirrels, opening coronavirus access to the body, were found in the cells of the nasal cavity, involved in odor recognition. The increased number of these proteins in older animals explains the increased risk of coronavirus infection in elderly patients.
Researchers from the American Chemical Society have found in the nasal cavities of mice two proteins that coronavirus needs to get into the body. The detection of proteins in the nose explained the unusual early symptom of COVID-19 — a partial or complete loss of smell.
SARS-CoV-2 virus penetrates the cells of living things through membranes. On the surface of the cells there are “doors” in the form of the enzyme TMPRSS2 and protein ACE2, which is Coronavirus protein receptor. In the work published at ACS Chemical Neuroscience, scientists have shown that TMPRSS2 and ACE2 are produced by sustentacular cells in the nasal cavity that transport odors from the air to brain neurons.
In experiments on mice, researchers studied the production of proteins that let coronavirus into cells, depending on the age of the animals. It turned out that the old mice in the nasal cells had much more TMPRSS2 and ACE2 than the young ones. The result might explain why older people are more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, the next stage in the work of chemists is to check the production of traitor proteins in humans. Future studies also plan to investigate whether sostenicular cells can transmit coronavirus to neurons, spreading the infection to the brain.