Similarities between brain protein aggregations in long COVID and Alzheimer’s patients

June 21, 2022
Similarities between brain protein aggregations in long COVID and Alzheimer’s patients

Researchers from La Trobe University in Australia have found proteins generated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus – especially in patients diagnosed with long COVID – can form into aggregations of amyloid proteins often seen in the brains of patients with neurodegenerative disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one in five adults may be experiencing some form of lingering symptoms from COVID-19 including fatigue, anxiety, headaches, and “brain fog,” or lapses in memory and cognition.

Lead researcher Dr. Nick Reynolds from La Trobe University’s Institute for Molecular Science, and colleagues, found the SARS-CoV-2 virus generated two specific peptides that would eventually assemble into protein clumps in the brain, causing debilitating neurological symptoms.

Dr. Reynolds said that several drugs which have been developed to combat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may be repurposed to treat these symptoms.

“What we saw is that they formed very similar amyloid clumps, which are basically just ordered assemblies of protein that are stuck together and considered ‘molecular hallmarks’ of the early stages of neurodegenerative disease – to cut a long story short, these amyloid plaques are very toxic to the brain cells and we hypothesise that aggregates of SARS-CoV-2 proteins may trigger neurological symptoms in COVID-19 that many of us call brain fog.”

An earlier study from the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons also suggests that patients who had severe COVID could be predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s later in life. That study looked at brain tissue from several deceased COVID-19 patients and found distinct parallels in brain damage as with Alzheimer’s patients.

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