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COVID spike protein induces endothelial dysfunction in 3D engineered vascular networks

bioRxiv 2022 Oct 3;2022.10.01.510442.
SARS-CoV-2 spike protein induces endothelial dysfunction in 3D engineered vascular networks
Abstract
With new daily discoveries about the long-term impacts of COVID-19 there is a clear need to develop in vitro models that can be used to better understand the pathogenicity and impact of COVID-19. Here we demonstrate the utility of developing a model of endothelial dysfunction that utilizes induced pluripotent stem cell-derived endothelial progenitors encapsulated in collagen hydrogels to study the effects of COVID-19 on the endothelium. We found that treating these cell-laden hydrogels with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein resulted in a significant decrease in the number of vessel-forming cells as well as vessel network connectivity. Following treatment with the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone, we were able to prevent SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-induced endothelial dysfunction. In addition, we confirmed release of inflammatory cytokines associated with the COVID-19 cytokine storm. In conclusion, we have demonstrated that even in the absence of immune cells, we are able to use this 3D in vitro model for angiogenesis to reproduce COVID-19 induced endothelial dysfunction seen in clinical settings.
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