Scientists in the United Kingdom and around the world seek to increase the understanding of “Covid-19”, and the race to discover a vaccine.
And recently, researchers in the United States identified why the disease caused a loss of sense of smell and taste. These symptoms of Corona virus differ from the symptoms of colds or influenza.
With two other diseases, the cause is usually a stuffy nose caused by an infection in the area. However, for many people, loss of smell and taste is the only symptom of “Covid-19”.
The new research suggests that the reason for this could lie in the mechanism by which the virus infects our cells.
It is believed that a protein present on the surface of some human cells in the heart, lungs, intestines, throat and nose, is the “entry point” for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes “Covid-19”.
And the protein – an enzyme known as “angiotensin converting enzyme 2” (ACE-2) – has a specific shape that enables it to convert the hormone angiotensin into angiotensin 2, which is used in the body for various things, such as regulating blood pressure. And the way that the ACE-2 form fits perfectly into angiotensin, is similar to the way it fits into the spiky external proteins of the Coronavirus.
By examining tissue samples from people’s noses, a team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has launched a study with the hope of determining how many ACE-2 proteins are in each type of cell.
Their research showed that levels of a protein in the olfactory epithelium – the tissue at the back of the nose that is used to detect odor – was “strikingly” high. They were between 200 and 700 times higher than other areas of the nose.
Study author Andrew P. Lynn told BBC Science Focus: “olfactory cells are essential for the protection and maintenance of sensitive nerve cells in the nose, which detect smells and send that information to the brain. Generally, when cells are infected with a virus, they undergo a process called aciditis – essentially, self-destructive pressure to thwart the virus. Therefore, it is more likely that the olfactory support cells destroy themselves, which in turn leads to the death of the sensory neurons and the loss of the sense of smell.
And separate studies and others looking at the recovery of “Covid-19” patients have found that these nerve cells recover over time.
However, the long-term effects of “self-destruct” pressure remain unknown.
Professor Lynn explained: “Some of the“ Covid-19 ”patients reported a distorted smell – parosmia – that lasted for months after their sense of smell returned. This long-term disorder of smell with “Covid-19” is unusual and warrants further study. The altered smell function may be permanent, but it is too early to tell. We are optimistic that this eventually disappears as the brain “learns” to interpret the signals from the renewed olfactory endothelium.
It is believed that this final finding could indicate potential ways to treat infection directly through the nose.
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