Marilia Cerqueira Leite Seelaender, a professor in the Department of Clinical Surgery and researchers at the University of São Paulo's Medical School (FM-USP) in Brazil are investigating the role adipose tissue plays in the aggravation of COVID-19. One theory suggests fat cells act as a reservoir for SARS-CoV-2, and increase viral load in overweight patients. Additionally, the researchers suggest that fat cells release substances that boost the inflammatory reaction triggered by the virus in the bloodstream.
"A cytokine storm resulting in systemic inflammation similar to sepsis occurs in some severe COVID-19 patients. We believe these inflammatory factors come from adipose tissue. It's been shown that when adipocytes expand too much, they can cause inflammation throughout the body, even in the brain," commented Seelaender.
"It's worth noting that visceral adipocytes [located deep in the abdomen and around internal organs] have much more ACE2 than subcutaneous adipose tissue," Seelaender continued. "In addition, they're much more inflammatory. As a result, visceral obesity tends to be even more harmful as far as COVID-19 is concerned."