COVID-19 May Infect Dopamine Neurons – Neuroscience News

A recent study has uncovered that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for COVID-19, can infect dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, potentially leading to the neurological symptoms observed in long COVID, such as brain fog and depression. Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine and collaborating institutions discovered that about 5% of these neurons can become senescent after infection, ceasing to function properly and causing inflammation.

This finding was part of a broader investigation into how SARS-CoV-2 affects different cell types. The study, which utilized human stem cells to create various cell types, revealed that this senescence pathway was uniquely activated in dopamine neurons. The research, published in Cell Stem Cell, also identified three drugs—riluzole, metformin, and imatinib—that could potentially protect dopamine neurons from the virus, suggesting a new avenue for preventing neurological complications in COVID-19 patients.

The implications of this research are significant, as damage to dopamine neurons is also associated with Parkinson’s disease, raising concerns that long COVID patients may have an increased risk of developing Parkinsonian symptoms. The study emphasizes the importance of monitoring long COVID patients for potential long-term neurological issues.
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