SARS-CoV-2 Could Infect The Human Brain

Although it primarily impacts the lungs, SARS-CoV-2 could also infect the brain and cause problems there.

AsianScientist (Sep. 8, 2020) – A study using brain organoids derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has shown that SARS-CoV-2 could potentially infect the human brain. These findings have been published in Cell Research.

To date, SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than 27 million people and caused over 890,000 deaths. Although the virus primarily attacks the lungs, it is also known to infect other organs such as the heart and kidneys. There have also been reports of neurological symptoms including headaches, the loss of smell (anosmia), seizures and encephalopathy.

In fact, a study of 214 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China, reported that 36 percent of all patients and 46 percent of severe cases had neurologic symptoms. In addition, studies from France and Germany have revealed that between 36 to 84 percent of COVID-19 patients had viral infections in the brain. However, there has been no direct experimental evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the human central nervous system (CNS).

To explore the direct involvement of SARS-CoV-2 in the CNS in physiologically relevant models, a team led by Professor Huang Jiandong of the University of Hong Kong assessed SARS-CoV-2 infection in human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs), neurospheres and brain organoids derived from iPSCs.

Their results showed that iPSC-derived hNPCs could be infected by SARS-CoV-2 infection, but not SARS-CoV. Extensive protein expression and infectious viral particles were detected in neurospheres and brain organoids infected with SARS-CoV-2, which suggested SARS-CoV-2 could productively infect the human brain.

Importantly, SARS-CoV-2 infection in 3D human brain organoids was limited to neural progenitor cells, suggesting that the virus directly targets cortical neurons and NPCs.

“Overall, our study provides the first evidence of direct SARS-CoV-2 infection in human brain organoids, which contributes to our understanding of the pathogenesis of neurological complications in COVID-19,” said Huang.

The research team suggested that chronic and long-term consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection of the CNS should be closely monitored.

The article can be found at: Zhang et al. (2020) SARS-CoV-2 Infects Human Neural Progenitor Cells and Brain Organoids.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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