Scientists discover how COVID-19 can permanently damage the brain. Here’s all you need to know

Although COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, its survivors have complained about various problems, including memory lapses, fatigue, and drowsiness.

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A astrocyte cell showing expression of the SARS-CoV-2 receptor protein ACE2 in red.

For more than a year now, scientists and researchers have been working to understand how the mysterious new virus that causes COVID-19 harms not only our bodies but also our brains.

At the Louisiana State University, scientists have found that COVID-19 affects two types of brain cells: astrocytes and neurons, causing neurological problems in COVID-19 survivors even after they recover.

Astrocytes perform various important functions in the central nervous system. They carry nutrients from the bloodstream to neurons and block dangerous substances from invading.

Although COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, its survivors have complained about various problems, including memory lapses, fatigue, and drowsiness.

Scientists worldwide have been trying to determine whether the virus causes these problems directly by infecting the brain cells or indirectly through clotting or inflammation.

The LSU scientists focused on this complex proposition by analyzing cells found in the brain and the spinal cord to determine their sensitivity to the coronavirus.

SARS-COV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease, attacks human cells by targeting ACE2 receptors. These receptors are proteins located on the surface of different cell types, including those of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. However, scientists also found these receptors in both astrocytes and neurons.

brain
A group of neurons in blue and the dendrites that connect them (green). The ACE2 receptor in red is found in the neuronal main body.

After discovering ACE2 receptors in brain cells, scientists determined whether SARS-COV-2 can infect brain cells.

In order to do so, scientists used a modified surrogate virus with a spike protein, allowing the coronavirus to open the ACE2 receptor and enter a cell. They also added a green fluorescent protein in the modified virus so that it can easily be detected after infecting a cell.

The experts released the engineered virus on both neurons and astrocytes and discovered that the SARS-COV-2 could affect both types of brain cells. After penetrating astrocytes, the virus quickly reached vulnerable neurons and contaminated them.

These findings describe why many COVID-19 survivors experience many neurologic problems, including loss of sense of smell and taste, disorientation, stroke, and psychosis, long after recovering from the disease.

What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments below.

  • i have sufferd from perosmia till now after last year covid 19.perosmia is worst then covid.i am still not recoverd 100% from it after 1 year


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