Research led by The University of Queensland has found COVID-19 activates the same inflammatory response in the brain as Parkinson’s disease.
The discovery identified a potential future risk for neurodegenerative conditions in people who’ve had COVID-19, but also a possible treatment.
The UQ team was led by Professor Trent Woodruff and Dr Eduardo Albornoz Balmaceda from UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences, and virologists from the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.
“We studied the effect of the virus on the brain’s immune cells, ‘microglia’ which are the key cells involved in the progression of brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” Professor Woodruff said.
“Our team grew human microglia in the laboratory and infected the cells with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We found the cells effectively became ‘angry’, activating the same pathway that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s proteins can activate in disease, the inflammasomes.”
Dr Albornoz Balmaceda said triggering the inflammasome pathway sparked a ‘fire’ in the brain, which begins a chronic and sustained process of killing off neurons.
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