Brain CAT Scan

Shocking study finds severe COVID-19 linked to molecular signatures of brain aging

Brain CAT Scan

Gene usage in the brains of COVID-19 patients is similar to that seen in aging brains, according to experiments by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).

Scientists underline the interest of neurological follow-up in cured people.

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First identified in 2019 in Wuhan, China, as COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, (originally called "2019 novel coronavirus" or 2019-nCoV) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It spread globally, leading to the 2019-22 coronavirus pandemic.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{” attribute=””>COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease. However, neurological symptoms have been described in many COVID-19 patients, including in recovered individuals. In fact, a range of symptoms has been reported by patients including brain fog or lack of focused thinking, memory loss, and depression. Additionally, scientists have demonstrated that patients with severe COVID-19 exhibit a drop in cognitive performance that mimics accelerated aging. But, what has been lacking is molecular evidence for COVID-19’s aging effects on the brain.

In a series of experiments, scientists discovered that gene usage in the brains of patients with COVID-19 is similar to those observed in aging brains. The scientists, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), used a molecular profiling technique called

U.S. COVID Data Tracker

  • New Weekly Cases: 458, 986
  • Total Cases: 99,241,649
  • New Weekly Deaths: 2,981
  • Total Deaths: 1,080,472
  • New Weekly Hospital Admissions: 4,866
  • Current Hospitalizations: 30,252

CDC Data as of December 9, 2022.

“Ours is the first study to show that COVID-19 is associated with the molecular signatures of brain aging,” said co-first and co-corresponding author Maria Mavrikaki, PhD, an instructor of pathology at BIDMC and Harvard Medical School. “We found striking similarities between the brains of patients with COVID-19 and aged individuals.”

Mavrikaki and colleagues analyzed a total of 54 postmortem human frontal cortex tissue samples from adults 22 to 85 years old. Of these, 21 samples were from severe COVID-19 patients and one from an asymptomatic COVID-19 patient who died. 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

“We observed that gene expression in the brain tissue of patients who died of COVID-19 closely resembled that of uninfected individuals 71 years old or older,” said co-first author Jonathan Lee, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at BIDMC and Harvard Medical School. “Genes that were upregulated in aging were upregulated in the context of severe COVID-19; likewise, genes downregulated in aging were also downregulated in severe COVID-19. While we did not find evidence that the

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 conflicts of interest.

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