Akiko Iwasaki, immunologist at Yale University, led this study which shows that Covid-19 is capable of duplicating itself inside the brain. Worse, its presence deprives neighboring brain cells of oxygen. However, the frequency of this situation remains to be determined.
To carry out this research work, Professor Iwasaki and her colleagues infected laboratory-created mini-brains (brain organoids), infected mice and examined the brains of patients who died from Covid-19.
In brain organoids, the team makes a strange discovery: the virus is able to infect neurons and then “hack” into the machinery of the neuron cell to duplicate itself. Also, the researchers found that infected cells caused the death of surrounding cells by depriving them of oxygen. Another finding: the organoids had enough ACE2 to facilitate the entry of the virus, and the proteins were also present in the brains of deceased patients.
As for the mice infected with the lungs, they presented lesions in this organ; the infected animals in the brain quickly lost weight and died quickly. This is a potential sign of increased lethality when the virus enters the brain. The brains of three patients who died of severe complications from Covid-19 also showed traces of the virus to varying degrees, the study reveals.