Press Release


Nasal epithelial cells are potential targets for SARS-CoV2 to cause COVID-19

First collaborative study using the Human Cell Atlas (HCA) Lung Biological Network adresses the cell and organ specific expression of genes that enable the SARS-CoV2 virus to enter cells. The study was published in Nature Medicine.

With Dr. Herbert Schiller (ILBD/CPC) and Dr. Fabian Theis (ICB) two scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München contributed to this community effort. They are member of the HCA Lung Biological Network and co-authors in one of the studies used for this meta-analysis for COVID-19 related genes.

For the study about 80 scientists from around the world  explored multiple scRNA-seq datasets generated within the HCA consortium and other resources. They found that the SARS-CoV-2 entry receptor ACE2 and viral entry-associated protease TMPRSS2 are highly expressed in nasal goblet and ciliated cells. This would potentially explain the high efficiency of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. This indicates that these cells are the site of the original infection and possible reservoirs for spreading between individuals.

Find here a detailed report about pneumologists, intensive care physicians and lung researchers gathering knowledge about Covid-19/SARS-CoV-2.

Further informations

Link to the publication in Nature Medicine:

SARS-CoV-2 Entry Factors Highly Expressed in Nasal Epithelial Cells Together with Innate Immune Genes -

The HCA (Human Cell Atlas) is is a sort of Google maps of the human body, the purpose of which is to chart all the cells and tissues at different times to build a reference database of the normal healthy condition, which promises tremendous importance for the development of personalized medicine. Fabian Theis plays a leading role in this, and Herbert Schiller focuses specifically on lung-related issues within the HCA consortium and has also co-authored the corresponding white paper for the Human Cell Atlas.