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COVID-19 severity among elderly may be due to genetic reasons, study reveals

According to the researchers, the average person’s immune system performs well despite this limit until about 50 years old.

COVID-19, COVID effect, genetics, coronavirus pandemic, health news,
Professor James Anderson, a modeller of biological systems at UW stated that when DNA split in cell division, the telomere gets shorter with every division. (Image Credit: Pixabay)

A recently published modelling study by scientists at the University of Washington (UW) has revealed that genetically predetermined limits on the immune system may be the reason for the devastating impact of COVID-19, especially on the elderly.

The team of scientists found that the immune system’s ability to combat COVID-19, like any infection, mostly depends on the replication of the immune cells effective at destroying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease. The findings of the study were published recently in The Lancet eBioMedicine journal.

The study revealed that the body’s ability to produce cloned immune cells significantly declines in old age.

Professor James Anderson, a modeller of biological systems at UW stated that when DNA split in cell division, the telomere gets shorter with every division.

“After a series of replications of a cell, it gets too short and stops further division. Not all cells or all animals have this limit, but immune cells in humans have this cell life,” Anderson said in a statement.

According to the researchers, the average person’s immune system performs well despite this limit until about 50 years old. When a person attains this age, T cells have shortened telomeres and they cannot quickly clone themselves through cellular division to attack and clear the COVID-19 virus, the scientists said. Anderson also stated that telomere lengths are inherited from parents.

The scientists build their model by using publicly available data on COVID-19 mortality from the Center for Disease Control and US Census Bureau and studies on telomeres. The researchers suggested that assembling information on telomere length could help doctors in finding out who was less susceptible.

(With inputs from PTI)

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