The pancreas, a target tissue for the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)

Updated: Aug 31

#Diabetes is a major comorbidity of COVID-19, being a key risk factor for developing severe #COVID19 [1]. Indeed, people with the condition are more likely to die [2]. This is an important fact that our AI-based medical assistant, #AIMedAssist, takes into account to predict the evolution of a patient infected by SARS-CoV-2. The relationship goes even further, since diabetes is not only associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19, but also new-onset diabetes and associated metabolic complications have been related to patients with COVID-19 [3].

Why is that?

Recent data indicates that the virus damages the insulin-producing cells in the #pancreas. This revelation comes from an experimental study in miniature in which a pancreas organoid has been established to investigate the effect of the virus on this tissue. The study shows that pancreatic cells are permissive to SARS-CoV-2 infection, therefore suggesting that the virus might trigger diabetes by damaging these cells in the pancreas [4].

However, we still need more robust evidence and further physiological platforms to evaluate the contribution of SARS-CoV-2 in the progression towards type 1 or type 2 diabetes in patients infected with the virus.


[1]. Docherty, A. B. et al. Features of 16,749 hospitalised UK patients with COVID-19 using the ISARIC WHO Clinical Characterisation Protocol. medRxiv 2, 2020.04.23.20076042 (2020).

[2]. Zhu, L. et al. Association of blood glucose control and outcomes in patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing type 2 diabetes. Cell Metab. 31, 1068-1077.e3 (2020).

[3]. Rubino, F. et al. New-onset diabetes in Covid-19. N. Engl. J. Med. 1–2 (2020) doi:10.1056/nejmc2018688.

[4]. Yang, L. et al. A human pluripotent stem cell-based platform to study SARS-CoV-2 tropism and model virus infection in human cells and organoids. Cell Stem Cell 27, 1–12 (2020).

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