A new study has revealed that SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID19 infection, can damage brain cells called neurons using the cell’s internal machinery. Experts say that the virus uses the internal machinery of cells to copy itself in the body. There have been many shreds of evidence, which prove that coronavirus is associated with various forms of brain damage like deadly inflammation and encephalopathy. These diseases can lead to delirium, confusion, and brain fog. However, there has been no evidence to prove that virus can also invade brain tissue until now. This study is yet to be published in any peer-reviewed journal. The findings of the research have been mentioned in the preprint database ‘bioRxiv’.
Senior author of the study Akiko Iwasaki has said that they have been observing more patients to determine how often such brain infections occur and what are the symptoms of the infection in different areas in the brain. Authors have said that they still need to find out how the virus enters inside the brain and how it can be prevented from infecting the brain cells or neurons. Experts have analyzed the brain autopsy report of three COVID19 patients who have died due to the disease. They have also carried out experiments on mice infected with COVID19. Scientists have conducted some of the experiments on Organoids to copy the 3D structure of brain tissue. Organoids are groups of cells developed in a lab dish. This study is the first of its kind to do an extensive analysis of SARS-CoV-2 brain infection involving three models.
Experts have found that the virus can infect the neurons in the brain through the ACE2 receptor, which is a protein found in cells. ACE2 receptor is used by the virus to hijack the cell and trigger infection. Scientists have also used an electron microscope to examine the infected cells. Experts have been able to see that coronavirus has been reproducing itself in the infected cells, which means the virus has seized the internal machinery of the neurons to create more copies of itself. The virus has been able to cause metabolic changes in healthy cells as well. These healthy neurons have been destroyed by the infected cells; it suggests that infected cells might have snatched the oxygen from nearby healthy neurons to keep making more copies of the virus. In the brain autopsy of three dead COVID19 patients, experts have seen that the virus can infect some neurons in the wrinkled cerebral cortex as well. These findings suggest that how lethal SARS-CoV-2 can be if it spreads in the brain. However, experts have said that they need to examine more autopsied brain tissue of COVID19 patients to see if these preliminary findings are valid in larger groups of people.