New Outstanding Study Linking Post-Covid to Mitochondrial Damage

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The World Mitochondria Society (WMS) congratulates Professor Douglas Wallace, and his team on the outstanding publication in yesterday's issue of Science, focusing on Post Covid and Mitochondria. It is truly impressive and represents a significant leap forward in understanding the strategic role of mitochondria and mitochondrial energetics in both health and diseases.

The WMS strongly believes that the implications of this study extend beyond Covid, encompassing all diseases linked to mitochondria.


This excellent study delved into the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on host mitochondria and gene expression. The research revealed that SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins have the potential to hinder oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and encourage glycolysis by binding to host mitochondrial proteins. In nasopharyngeal samples, decreasing viral titers were associated with the suppression of nuclear DNA (nDNA) – encoded mitochondrial OXPHOS genes. Additionally, the virus led to the activation of microRNA 2392, HIF-1α (which prompts glycolysis), and host immune responses, including the integrated stress response.

In autopsy tissues of COVID-19 patients, the virus was absent, yet mitochondrial gene expression had recovered in the lungs. However, suppressed nDNA mitochondrial gene expression persisted in the heart, kidney, and liver autopsy tissues, while mitochondrial DNA transcription was activated, and immune defense pathways were engaged. In early SARS-CoV-2 infection in hamsters, the lung's mitochondrial gene expression remained largely unaffected, but perturbations were observed in the cerebellum and striatum. During the mid-phase of infection in mice, lung mitochondrial gene expression started to recover. This data suggests that during the initial viral peak, a systemic host response takes place, followed by the virus hindering mitochondrial gene transcription and prompting glycolysis, leading to antiviral immune responses. Despite lung recovery, mitochondrial dysfunction persists in the heart, kidney, liver, and lymph nodes, potentially contributing to severe COVID-19 symptoms.

We will discuss during the World Mitochondria Society Annual Meeting this October in Berlin how to enhance mitochondrial function and strategies to target mitochondrial energetics in health and disease.

Media contact:

World Mitochondria Society
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Targeting Mitochondria 2023 Congress
October 11-13, 2023 - Berlin, Germany

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