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Although studies have shown that COVID-19 can harshly impact patients' lungs, a new study claims that the virus can have a direct and severe impact on other organs such as the kidney. COVID-19, according to a group of German and Dutch researchers, can induce direct cellular damage within the kidneys, contributing to tissue scarring or kidney fibrosis.

The research was published in the Cell Stem Cell journal.

To evaluate the effect of the coronavirus on the kidney, researchers from Germany's RWTH Uniklinik Aachen and the Netherlands' Radboud University Medical Center collected kidney tissue from 62 COVID-19 ICU patients, and assessed and compared kidney tissues between COVID-19 ICU patients, other patients in the hospital for a non-COVID-related lung issue, and a group of healthy people.

After the study, it was found that COVID-19 patients' kidney tissue had much higher tissue scarring than other patients.

The initial phase of research confirmed that the SARS-CoV-2 harm kidneys. For the next step, which determined how the virus accomplish this, the research team created organoids, a series of mini kidneys created by culturing in a lab. The organoids, which were created using stem cells, contained a variety of kidney cells, except immune cells.


The researchers next infected each organoid with a live Covid virus to see how it affected kidney cells directly. They observed kidney organoid scarring as well as "associated signals that contribute to the scarring process" once more.

The researchers concluded that these findings strongly suggest that the coronavirus, not inflammation or other systemic effects, is to blame for the kidney damage reported in COVID-19 patients.

Research Result

Co-researcher Jitske Jansen in a media release stated, "in our study, we thoroughly investigated the causal damaging effects of the Coronavirus in the kidneys. The infected kidney organoids show that the virus directly causes cell damage, independent of the immune system. With this work, we found a piece of the puzzle showing the deleterious effects the virus can have in the body."

Another co-researcher Katharina Reimer added that "kidney fibrosis, or scarring, is a serious long-term consequence that can occur virtually after any injury to the kidney and correlates with kidney function. Our work shows kidney scarring in COVID-19 patients, which provides an explanation why the virus might cause kidney functional decline as demonstrated in other studies. Long-term follow-up studies will provide further insights into kidney-related pathologies caused by SARS-CoV-2." 

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