Genetic map of protein heritability could unlock our understanding of Covid-19

This latest study maps the genetics of ACE2 - a protein which Covid-19 virus uses to enter the human body. The research included data from 1,000 Orkney Complex Disease Study (ORCADES) volunteers.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a strain of coronavirus that causes Covid-19. It enters human cells using the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) protein. Therefore, ACE2 is key to understanding Covid-19 infection and thus potentially the treatment of it. ACE2 is expressed a lot in the heart and respiratory systems, playing important roles in heart regulation and other biological systems. However, the genetics of the ACE2 protein is not well understood.

To address this, researchers based at the University of Edinburgh and Sun Yat-sen University, China, conducted a study to map the genetics of ACE2. This is the largest study of its kind on ACE2,  including blood measures from 1,000 ORCADES volunteers and over 28,000 individuals in total.

The research identified 8 new gene locations that explain 30% of the heritability of the ACE2 protein. The research also supported previous findings that there is a link between levels of ACE2 and Cardiovascular Disease and Covid-19. Finally, they found that high levels of ACE2 could be related to more severe Covid-19. Together, these findings add more evidence that heart complications in Covid-19 patients are highly likely to be linked to the ACE2 protein. 

These findings are potentially crucial to the development of future treatments for Covid-19 and heart-related conditions. However, the authors do call for further research. They suggest that the identification of genetic factors related to the regulation of ACE2 could help to untangle the details of the role of ACE2 in Covid-19 infection, severity and immunity.

This paper was published in the journal Circulation. To read more visit:

Genetic Landscape of the ACE2 Coronavirus Receptor

Map of ACE2 Protein, email us at for an accessible description of the map