COVID-19 is associated with distinct myopathic features in the diaphragm of critically ill patients

Zhonghua Shi, Sylvia J.P. Bogaards, Stefan Conijn, Yeszamin Onderwater, Pedro Espinosa, Diewertje I. Bink, Marloes Van Den Berg, Martijn Van De Locht, Marianna Bugiani, Hans Van Der Hoeven, Reinier A. Boon, Leo Heunks, Coen A.C. Ottenheijm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction The diaphragm is the main muscle of inspiration, and its dysfunction contributes to adverse clinical outcomes in critically ill patients. We recently reported the infiltration of SARS-CoV-2, and the development of fibrosis, in the diaphragm of critically ill patients with COVID-19. In the current study, we aimed to characterise myofiber structure in the diaphragm of critically ill patients with COVID-19. Methods Diaphragm muscle specimens were collected during autopsy from patients who died of COVID-19 in three academic medical centres in the Netherlands in April and May 2020 (n=27). We studied diaphragm myofiber gene expression and structure and compared the findings obtained to those of deceased critically ill patients without COVID-19 (n=10). Results Myofibers of critically ill patients with COVID-19 showed on average larger cross-sectional area (slow-twitch myofibers: 2441±229 vs 1571±309 μm 2; fast-twitch myofibers: 1966±209 vs 1225±222 μm 2). Four critically ill patients with COVID-19 showed extremely large myofibers, which were splitting and contained many centralised nuclei. RNA-sequencing data revealed differentially expressed genes involved in muscle regeneration. Conclusion Diaphragm of critically ill patients with COVID-19 has distinct myopathic features compared with critically ill patients without COVID-19, which may contribute to the ongoing dyspnoea and fatigue in the patients surviving COVID-19 infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere001052
JournalBMJ Open Respiratory Research
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 20 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • respiratory muscles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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