Rappocciolo responds to possibility that cholesterol could be the culprit in COVID-19 deaths


PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE – Cholesterol long has confounded medical science, given its important role in forming cell membranes, hormones, and the sheaths that insulate nerves, while also being responsible for such conditions as fatty liver disease and clogged arteries. Now adding to those harms, a study  has shown that high cholesterol levels in lung tissue may be the key culprit in COVID-19 deaths, especially for those with such underlying chronic conditions as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

Using super-resolution imaging, a team from the Scripps Research Institute documented a chain-reaction process that begins with high cholesterol levels and ends with a cytokine storm that fills the lungs with fluid. 

Giovanna Rappocciolo, an assistant professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, has studied cholesterol’s impact on HIV and found the Scripps study to be plausible,but “rough around the edges” — a situation that could be remedied through the peer-review process.

But the study also is important, she said, in noting that COVID-19 potentially could be treated by manipulating cholesterol levels, with drugs already available. For now, she said, “using available drugs directed to reduce cell cholesterol levels could represent an important line of inquiry.”

“Generally speaking, this is a very interesting and valid study that needs some more work,” said Rappocciolo, who holds a PhD in immunology. “It opens up a new field of study to try to exploit these pathways to stop the infection of cells.”

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from Cholesterol could be the culprit in COVID-19 deaths by David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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