French scientists have explained why the SARS-CoV-2 virus can destroy blood vessels in the brain. They explain that this is because in the event of an infection, one of the key proteins for the life of endothelial cells in the brain may be damaged. According to the researchers, however, this condition is reversible.
SARS-CoV-2 can kill cells that line the vessels in the brain. The condition is reversible but can lead to brain damage, the researchers say.
The virus destroys endothelial cells in the brain
Experts from the French National Institute for Health and Medicine Research (Inserm) and other centers in the country explained how SARS-CoV-2 can affect the brain’s blood vessels. As they say, the endothelial cells that make up the lining of the vessels die under the influence of the virus.
Meanwhile, they are a key component of the so-called blood-brain barrier that protects the central nervous system. The barrier prevents, among other things, compounds harmful to these organs from entering the brain and spinal cord, and allows nutrients and oxygen to pass through.
– Thanks to preclinical studies and analysis of the cerebral cortex taken from patients who died due to SARS-CoV-2 infection, it was possible to show that the infection leads to the death of endothelial cells in the brain, which results in the appearance of “ghost vessels” (empty tubes without cells endothelium), the researchers write.
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This can be reversed
Scientists also explained why cells die. Well, the activity of the virus causes the formation of molecules that destroy a protein called NEMO, which is crucial for the life of endothelial cells.
According to the researchers, the described damage has two main effects. First, the disruption of the blood-brain barrier causes microbial bleeding, causing blood to travel where it shouldn’t be. Second, in some places the blood supply is reduced, which in extreme situations can lead to death.
Fortunately, research indicates that this dangerous condition can be reversible.
However, if the results were confirmed, the finding would point to a critical time in the disease, when vascular damage could cause future cognitive deficits or neurological disorders, even dementia, the researchers said.
“Knowing the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection and its impact on the proper functioning of the brain is crucial for the best possible patient care in the years to come,” concluded Vincent Prévot, Research Director at Inserm.
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