Summary: Gene usage in the brains of those who suffered severe COVID-19 infections was similar to that seen in the aging brain. Researchers say COVID-19 is associated with molecular signatures of brain aging.
Although COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, neurological symptoms have been described in many patients with COVID-19, including recovered individuals.
Patients report symptoms such as brain fog or lack of focus of thought, memory loss and depression, and scientists have demonstrated that patients with severe COVID-19 show a decline in cognitive performance that mimics the accelerated aging. But molecular evidence for the aging effects of COVID-19 on the brain is lacking.
In a series of experiments, scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) found that gene usage in the brains of COVID-19 patients is similar to that seen in aging brains.
Using a molecular profiling technique called RNA sequencing to measure the levels of each gene expressed in a particular tissue sample, scientists assessed changes in gene expression profiles in the brains of COVID-19 patients and compared to changes observed in the brains of uninfected patients. people.
The team’s analysis, published in natural agingsuggested that many biological pathways that change with natural aging in the brain also changed in patients with severe COVID-19.
“Ours is the first study to show that COVID-19 is associated with the molecular signatures of brain aging,” said co-first and corresponding co-author Maria Mavrikaki, PhD, professor of pathology at BIDMC and Harvard Medical. School. “We found striking similarities between the brains of patients with COVID-19 and those of the elderly.”
Mavrikaki and his colleagues analyzed a total of 54 post-mortem human frontal cortex tissue samples from adults between the ages of 22 and 85. Of these, 21 samples were from severe COVID-19 patients and one from a deceased asymptomatic COVID-19 patient. These samples were age- and sex-matched to uninfected controls with no history of neurological or psychiatric disease.
The scientists also included an age- and sex-matched uninfected Alzheimer’s disease case for analysis as a control of a COVID-19 case who had comorbid Alzheimer’s disease, as well as an independent control group. additional uninfected individuals with a history of intensive disease. ventilator care or treatment.
“We observed that gene expression in the brain tissue of deceased COVID-19 patients closely resembled that of uninfected individuals 71 years of age or older,” said co-first author Jonathan Lee, PhD, postdoctoral researcher at BIDMC and Harvard Medical. School.
“Genes that were upregulated in aging were upregulated in the context of severe COVID-19; likewise, genes down-regulated in aging were also down-regulated in severe COVID-19.
“Although we did not find evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was present in brain tissue at the time of death, we did find inflammatory patterns associated with COVID-19. This suggests that this inflammation may contribute to the aging-like effects seen in the brains of patients with COVID-19 and long COVID.
“Given these findings, we argue for neurological monitoring of recovered COVID-19 patients,” said lead and co-corresponding author Frank Slack, PhD, director of the Institute of RNA Medicine at BIDMC and Shields Medical Research Professor Warren Mallinckrodt. at Harvard Medical School.
“We also highlight the potential clinical value of modifying factors associated with dementia risk – such as weight control and reducing excessive alcohol consumption – to reduce the risk or delay the development of age-related neurological pathologies. and cognitive decline.
A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying brain aging and cognitive decline in COVID-19 could lead to the development of new therapies to combat the cognitive decline observed in COVID-19 patients. The team is now trying to understand what drives the aging-like effects in the brains of COVID-19 patients.
Funding: Isaac H. Solomon, MD, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, also contributed to this work, which was supported by the National Institute of Aging (NIA; R01 AG058816). The authors declare no conflict of interest.
About this news on research on COVID-19 and brain aging
Author: Chloe Meck
Contact: Chloe Meck – BIDMC
Image: Image is in public domain
Original research: Access closed.
“Severe COVID-19 is associated with molecular signatures of aging in the human brain” by Jonathan Lee et al. natural aging
Severe COVID-19 is associated with molecular signatures of aging in the human brain
As both coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and aging are accompanied by cognitive decline, we hypothesized that COVID-19 could lead to molecular signatures similar to aging.
We performed a whole-transcriptome analysis of the frontal cortex, an area critical for cognitive function, in people with COVID-19, age- and sex-matched uninfected controls, and uninfected people with treatment in the intensive care/ventilator unit.
Our findings indicate that COVID-19 is associated with molecular signatures of brain aging and underscore the value of neurological monitoring in recovered individuals.
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