Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is causing the current pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and COVID-19 vaccines focus on its spike protein. However, in addition to facilitating the membrane fusion and viral entry, the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein promotes cell growth signaling in human lung vascular cells, and patients who have died of COVID-19 have thickened pulmonary vascular walls, linking the spike protein to a fatal disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). In addition to SARS-CoV spike proteins, gp120, the viral membrane fusion protein of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), has been reported to promote cell signaling, and long-term surviving HIV-positive patients have a high incidence of developing PAH. This article describes the findings of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein affecting lung vascular cells and explains how the spike protein possibly increases the incidence of PAH. Since the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein will be administered to millions of people as COVID-19 vaccines, it is critical to understand the biological effects of this protein on human cells to ensure that it does not promote long-term adverse health consequences.
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