The findings, published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy, show a discrepancy between Covid-19 and common brain changes in Alzheimer’s and may help inform the risk management and Covid-19-related psychiatric treatment strategies.
Reports of vascular problems in Covid-19 patients and ‘long haulier’ patients with symptoms that develop after the onset of infection are becoming more and more common, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) may have lasting effects on brain function. However, it is not yet clear how the virus leads to neurological issues.
“Although some studies show that SARS-CoV-2 directly affects brain cells, others have not found evidence of infection in the brain,” said Feixiong Cheng, PhD, a Cleveland Clinic staff assistant at the Genomic Medicine Institute and author of the study. “Identifying how Covid-19 and vascular problems are linked will be crucial to developing prevention and treatment strategies to address the growing emotional disability we are expecting to see soon.”
In the study, researchers used artificial intelligence using data sets available for patients with Alzheimer’s and Covid-19. They measured the proximity between SARS-CoV-2 gene / protein handling and those related to a number of neurological disorders where the approach suggests related or shared pathways for disease. Researchers are also analyzing the genetic makeup of SARS-COV-2 that infects tissue and brain cells.
While researchers found little evidence that the virus is directly involved in the brain, they found a close network between the virus and the genes / proteins associated with a number of neurological disorders, particularly Alzheimer’s, identifying ways Covid-19 could lead to Alzheimer’s dementia.
To explore this further, they are investigating the possible associations between Covid-19 neuroinfigueation and subconscious brain, which are both symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
“We have found that SARS-CoV-2 infection has dramatically altered the Alzheimer’s symptoms involved in inflammation of the brain and that certain viral infections are more pronounced in problematic blood and brain cells,” explains Dr. Cheng. “These findings suggest that the virus may affect several genes or mechanisms involved in neuroinfigue and microvascular brain damage, which can lead to mental retardation such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
Researchers also found that people with APOE E4 / E4, which is a major component of Alzheimer’s risk, reduced gene expression, which could make these patients more susceptible to Covid-19.
“Ultimately, we hope to open up a research approach that leads to tested and measured biomarkers that can identify patients at high risk for neurological problems with Covid-19,” said Dr. Cheng.
Dr. Cheng and his team are now working to find effective biomarkers and new therapeutic targets for Covid-19 neurological disorders in Covid long-haulers using network cutting tools and implant technology.