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.

It is true that[{” 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

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“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 DOI: 10.1038/s43587-022-00321-w

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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