According to a study recently published in the European Heart Journal, men’s blood contains higher levels than women’s of the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is believed to play a role in how COVID-19 develops in the lungs.
ACE2 is a gene that codes for a receptor on the surface of cells which the coronavirus binds to and uses to enter and infect healthy cells. This enzyme can be found in the lungs, heart, kidneys, in tissues lining blood vessels, and according to the new data, in particularly high levels in the testes. Adriaan Voors, MD, of the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, who co-led the study, said the enzyme’s presence in the testes might partially cause higher concentrations in men. COVID-19 death and infection rates have pointed to men being more likely than women to contract the disease, and higher levels of ACE2 expression may help explain why men are more vulnerable to the virus.
Researchers measured levels of ACE2 in plasma samples from more than 3,500 heart failure patients across 11 European countries. Since enrollment happened prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, it did not include patients with COVID-19.