According to a National Institutes of Health study, the immune response triggered by the COVID-19 infection can harm your brain’s blood vessels and cause both immediate and long-term neurological problems (NIH). Researchers from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) examined the brain changes of nine people who died shortly after contracting the virus, according to a study published in Brain. According to ANI, scientists discovered additional evidence that antibodies, immune system proteins produced in response to viruses and other intruders, damage the cells lining the blood arteries in the brain, causing inflammation and harm.
These nine people, ranging in age from 24 to 73, were chosen because of blood vessel damage in their brains as per structural brain scans.
According to a previous study conducted by the team, SARS-CoV-2 was not found in the patient’s brain, indicating that the virus was not directly invading the brain. According to the National Institutes of Health, understanding how SARS-CoV-2 may cause brain damage may aid in the development of Covid patients who continue to experience neurological symptoms.
“We had previously shown blood vessel damage and inflammation in patients’ brains at autopsy, but we didn’t understand the cause of the damage,” said Avinda Nath, the paper’s author, and MD clinical director at NINDS. I believe we learned a lot about the chain of events from this paper.”
Dr. Nath and his colleagues discovered that COVID-19-induced antibodies may inadvertently attack the blood-brain barrier. The barrier, which prevents dangerous compounds from entering the brain while allowing necessary substances to pass through, is formed in part by tightly packed endothelial cells. Protein leakage from the blood can be caused by damage to these cells in blood vessels in the brain. As a result, some COVID patients experience bleeding and blood clots, which can increase their risk of stroke. For the first time, scientists discovered immune complex deposits in the brains of COVID patients when antibodies bind antigens found on the surface of endothelial cells. Such immune complexes cause tissue damage by causing inflammation. Prior to the study, scientists discovered leaky blood vessels using immunohistochemistry.
Dr Nath said, “Once leakage occurs, immune cells such as macrophages may come to repair the damage, setting up inflammation. This, in turn, causes damage to neurons.”
According to the NIH, the study may have implications for identifying and managing long-term neurological symptoms such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep problems, and brain fog.
When endothelial cells were damaged, researchers discovered that over 300 genes showed a decrease in expression, while 6 genes showed an increase in expression. These genes are associated with metabolic processes, DNA damage, and oxidative stress. These findings shed light on the immunological response that causes brain damage following COVID-19 infection.