A group of researchers working at Harvard Medical School have found evidence that patients who undergo severe COVID-19 infection may show signs of aging in parts of their brains. In her article published in the journal natural change, Maria Mavrikaki, Jonathan Lee, Isaac Solomon and Frank Slack describe their analyzes of brain tissue from deceased patients and their findings.
As the pandemic continues, albeit in a much less widespread form, scientists continue to study the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. After reading reports suggesting that some people with severe symptoms had experienced cognitive decline, in this new experiment researchers took a closer look at the brains of people who died from severe COVID-19 infections.
The work involved collecting brain tissue samples from the cortices of 21 people who had died from COVID-19 infection. They then compared those samples to samples from 22 other people who had died but never had COVID-19. They also compared her to another control group of people who never had COVID-19 but had died of other causes after being put on a ventilator — an intervention known to cause negative side effects.
In their comparison, the researchers found that evidence of activation of genes in the brain related to inflammation was more common in the people who died from COVID-19 infection than in the other two groups. They also found that genes linked to perception and the formation of connections between cells in the brain were less active.
The researchers then compared the brain samples of COVID-19 patients taken from a different group of people who had died from other causes, some relatively young and some over 71 years old. They found similarities between the change in gene activity in the COVID-19 patients and those over the age of 71.
The researchers acknowledge that their work is only a first step in establishing a clear link between COVID-19 infections and premature brain aging, and note that they and others are already working on further studies. They also note that the inflammatory changes in the brain may be due to the inflammation caused by the infection rather than the virus itself.
Maria Mavrikaki et al, Severe COVID-19 Associated with Molecular Signatures of Aging in the Human Brain, aging in nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s43587-022-00321-w
Citation: Severe COVID-19 is linked to molecular signatures of aging in the human brain (2022 December 6) retrieved December 6, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-12-severe-covid-molecular- signatures-aging .html
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