The cognitive impairment is similar to dementia. It is a complication that can appear in people who get sick from COVID-19, according to scientists.
However, the underlying mechanisms responsible for this complication remain unclear to them, which is why they consider it essential to understand the causal processes by which the coronavirus can lead to cognitive decline in order to develop preventive and therapeutic interventions.
In pursuit of advancing that investigation, a team of experts led by the Cleveland Clinic used artificial intelligence to discover the association between COVID-19 and brain changes which can lead to dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease. The findings, published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, indicate an overlap between COVID-19 and common brain changes in Alzheimer’s and may help inform risk management and therapeutic strategies for coronavirus-associated cognitive decline.
The reports of neurological complications in patients with COVID-19and in long-term patients whose symptoms persist after the infection clears are becoming more common, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) may have long-lasting effects on brain function. However, it is not yet well understood how the virus leads to neurological problems.
“While some studies suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infects brain cells directly, others found no evidence of the virus in the brain,” said Dr. Feixiong Cheng of the Cleveland Clinic Institute for Genomic Medicine and lead author of the study.” Identifying how COVID-19 and neurological problems are related will be critical to developing effective preventive and therapeutic strategies to address the increase in neurocognitive deficits that we hope to see in the near future,” he added.
In the study, the researchers leveraged artificial intelligence using existing data sets from Alzheimer’s and COVID-19 patients. They measured the proximity between SARS-CoV-2 host genes/proteins and those associated with various neurological diseases where closer proximity suggests related or shared disease pathways. The researchers also analyzed the genetic factors that allowed SARS-COV-2 to infect brain cells and tissues.
Yes, OK scientists found little evidence that the virus targets the brain directly, they discovered close network relationships between the virus and genes/proteins associated with various neurological diseases, most notably Alzheimer’s, which point to pathways by which COVID-19 could lead to Alzheimer’s-like disease. To explore this further, they investigated possible associations between COVID-19 and neuroinflammation and brain microvascular injury, which are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
“We found that SARS-CoV-2 infection significantly altered Alzheimer’s markers involved in brain inflammation and that certain viral entry factors are highly expressed in blood-brain barrier cells. These findings indicate that the virus can affect several genes or pathways involved in neuroinflammation and brain microvascular injury, which could lead to cognitive decline similar to Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Cheng.
The researchers also found that individuals with the APOE E4 / E4 allele, the greatest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, had decreased expression of antiviral defense genes, which could make these patients more susceptible to COVID- 19.
“Ultimately, we hope to have paved the way for research that will lead to verifiable and measurable biomarkers that can identify patients at increased risk of neurological complications COVID-19,” Cheng added. He and his team are now working to identify actionable biomarkers and new therapeutic targets for neurological problems associated with COVID-19 in COVID long-haul carriers using state-of-the-art network medicine and artificial intelligence technology.
“Our results suggest a significant mechanistic overlap between AD and COVID-19, focused on neuroinflammation and microvascular injury. These results help to improve our understanding of the neurological manifestations associated with COVID-19 and provide guidance for the future development of preventive or treatment interventions, although the causal relationship and mechanical pathways between COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s need future research”, ended.