How COVID-19 Enters the Brain, Explains Confusing Neurological Symptoms

Research assist clarify complicated neurological signs — and why they’re so unpredictable.

New analysis gives a close-up have a look at how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can unfold to the mind. This examine helps clarify the worrying set of neurological signs reported in some sufferers with COVID-19, in addition to why some sufferers undergo from extreme neurological results whereas others don’t expertise them in any respect.



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Researchers report proof that SARS-CoV-2 can infect the nerve cells that energy our brains (neurons) and cells within the mind and spinal twine that assist and shield neurons (astrocytes).

“Our findings recommend that astrocytes are the pathway by which COVID-19 causes neurological harm,” mentioned Ricardo Costa, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at Louisiana State College (LSU) Well being Shreveport and first writer of the examine. “This might clarify most of the neurological signs we see in COVID-19 sufferers, which embody lack of sense of scent and style, disorientation, psychosis, and stroke.”

Costa will current the analysis on the annual assembly of the American Physiological Society throughout its Experimental Biology (EB) 2021 assembly, being held practically April 27-30. The examine was led by Diana Cruz-Topete, assistant professor of molecular and mobile biology at LSU Well being Shreveport, and included collaborators Oscar Gomez-Torres, PhD, and Emma Burgos-Ramos, PhD, of the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Spain.

Within the respiratory system, SARS-CoV-2 is thought to contaminate an individual’s cells by capturing a protein on the cell floor known as the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor. It’s not but clear whether or not mind cells have this receptor.

For the examine, Costa and colleagues examined RNA and protein to find out whether or not cultured human astrocytes and neurons expressed ACE2. They then uncovered the cells to a modified model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to make it secure for the researchers to deal with. Research affirm that each astrocytes and neurons specific the ACE2 receptor and that each cell varieties may be contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, though astrocytes are much less prone to change into contaminated.

Astrocytes are the principle gateway to the mind, answerable for transporting vitamins from the bloodstream to neurons whereas protecting dangerous particles out. By preventing an infection, astrocytes might help preserve SARS-CoV-2 away from the mind, however as soon as contaminated, astrocytes can simply transmit the virus to a number of neurons, based on the researchers.

“Whereas astrocytes present the next resistance to an infection, neurons seem like extra prone,” Costa mentioned. “This implies that only some contaminated astrocytes are enough for an infection to quickly unfold to neurons and multiply quickly. This commentary might clarify why whereas some sufferers haven’t any neurological signs, others seem to have extreme signs.”

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