The Mechanisms of Cornification and COVID-19

June 21, 2021

ZOMBIE CELLS: THE MECHANISMS OF CORNIFICATION AND COVID-19

The prevalence of de novo diabetes post COVID and the disease’s deleterious effects on diabetics has caused me to look intensely at the pancreas. In particular, ?1-integrins, which mediates important functions ranging from adhesion and migration of progenitor cell populations, to cell survival and secretory functions of adult islet cells. 

This very same receptor is involved in the initiation of a process called Cornification, which the body uses to create hair, skin and other “dead" yet  biologically active cells.

The process of cornification begins under the control of p63, which is activated in COVID. 

Also, glucosylceramides and sphingomyelin are converted to ceramides and phospholipids are converted to free fatty acids and glycerol occur during  Cornification. These PRECISE mechanisms of lipid metabolism are at play in COVID. 

Another requirement for Cornification is a single episode of prolonged intracellular Ca2+ elevation, followed by rapid acidification. Such intracellular ionic changes facilitate organellar degradation events specific to SC corneocyte formation.

This organellar degradation can explain the mitochondrial and energy dysfunction as, almost like a magic wand, the process of Cornification causes the REMOVAL of all organelles from the cell, including mitochondria. Interestingly, Cathepsin-L plays a prominent role in the Cornification of cells, which is also a prominent player in COVID.

Lastly, many of the signaling pathways of Cornification are identical to those of COVID. Please refer to the referenced article.

Is Long COVID the presence of “Zombie Cells" in our bodies? Cells that are biologically dead yet still a “functional" part of us, like so many bricks in a wall?

Does this explain the gas exchange issues seen in acute COVID? The alveoli are rendered empty shells?

Referenced/Related Papers

Cathepsin L plays a key role in SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans and humanized mice and is a promising target for new drug development

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41392-021-00558-8

A unique mode of keratinocyte death requires intracellular acidification

https://www.pnas.org/content/118/17/e2020722118

In situ detection of SARS-CoV-2 in lungs and airways of patients with COVID-19

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41379-020-0595-z

β1 integrin is a crucial regulator of pancreatic β-cell expansion

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23863477/

Cell death by cornification

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167488913002334#f0015