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UCSD, Rady Children’s Research Shows How COVID Virus Infects Brain Cells

Novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Photo via @UCSDJacobs

UC San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine researchers announced Friday they have produced a stem cell model showing a potential entry route for the COVID-19 virus into the human brain.

The findings on the SARS-CoV-2 virus were published in the July 9 online issue of Nature Medicine.

“Clinical and epidemiological observations suggest that the brain can become involved in SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Dr. Joseph Gleeson, research senior author and a Rady neuroscience professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

“The prospect of COVID19-induced brain damage has become a primary concern in cases of ‘long COVID,’ but human neurons in culture are not susceptible to infection,” said Gleeson, also neuroscience research director at the Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine. “Prior publications suggest that the cells that make the spinal fluid could become infected with SARS-CoV-2, but other routes of entry seemed likely.”

Gleeson and his colleagues, which included neuroscientists and infectious disease specialists, confirmed that human neural cells are resistant to SARS-CoV-2 infection. At the same time, recent studies hinted that other types of brain cells might serve as a “Trojan horse.”

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