Health

Scientists have created mini brains and infected them with the coronavirus. What they saw could explain Long COVID

Scientists have created mini brains and infected them with the coronavirus. What they saw could explain Long COVID

In a new study published in molecular psychiatry, Researchers from Sweden and a Harvard-affiliated hospital in Boston tried to find out by creating “brain organoids,” or miniature brains the size of a pinhead, and infecting them with COVID.

What they saw explained a lot: An “excessive number” of synapses, or the connections between brain cells that allow them to communicate, were eliminated during the disease — “more than you would expect to see in a normal brain,” the authors wrote. on October 27 an article on an academic news page Conversation.

In a process known as “pruning,” normal brains get rid of a certain amount of inactive synapses when they are no longer needed, to make way for new ones. But the infected mini-brains showed unnecessary and disordered levels of the cleaning process, similar to neurological disorders like schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, according to the authors.

What the researchers witnessed may explain why many They have been suffering from COVID for a long time report neurological symptoms and why COVID appears to increase the risk of developing some neurological disorders.

It is well established that those who have had COVID-19 are at increased risk of complications such as stroke, memory problems, depression, anxiety and migraines. More than a third of those who had COVID reported neurological symptoms February article in Therapeutic progress in chronic diseases.

And it is well known that some long-term COVID sufferers have neurological symptoms such as tremors, movement problems, involuntary muscle contractions, seizures, hearing and vision problems, balance and coordination problems, and other symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. The most common neurological symptoms of long-term COVID include “brain fog,” headache, confusion, sleep disturbances, mood disturbances, problems with smell or taste, and dysautonomiaa disorder of the autonomic nervous system that may include fainting, a drop in blood pressure when standing, a fast heart rate, and other problems with involuntary bodily functions.

The authors of the new study warn that because the cerebellum they created is so small, it may more closely resemble the brain of a fetus than the brain of an adult. Still, some studies of individuals who died of COVID, along with imaging studies of survivors, report neuronal death and a decrease in gray matter thickness in the brain, signs of synapse loss, they say.

almost 20% of American adults who had COVID-an estimated 50 million—report having lingering symptoms of COVID after their infection clears, according to data collected this summer by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Long-term COVID is roughly defined as symptoms that persist or appear long after the initial COVID infection has cleared, but a consensus definition is still not widely accepted.

Many experts argue that long-term COVID is best defined as a condition similar to chronic fatigue syndrome that develops after a COVID illness, similar to other post-viral syndromes such as those that can occur after infection with herpes, Lyme disease, and even Ebola. Other complications after COVID like post-intensive care syndrome should not be defined as long-term COVID, they say.

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