The results, published in the latest issue of the journal “Alzheimer Research Therapy”, indicate that there is an overlap between the Corona virus and common brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease, and this helps guide risk management and therapeutic strategies for cognitive impairment associated with the disease.
“While some studies indicate that the virus directly infects brain cells, others have not found evidence of the virus in the brain,” says Feixiung Zheng, a researcher at the Institute of Genomic Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic and lead author of the study.
“Determining how COVID-19 is related to neurological problems is critical to developing effective preventive and therapeutic strategies to address the sudden rise in neurocognitive impairments that we expect to see in the near future.”
In the study, the researchers used artificial intelligence using existing data sets for Alzheimer’s and “Covid-19” patients, and they measured the proximity between genes – the host proteins of the virus that causes Covid-19, and those associated with many neurological diseases, as this reveals disease pathways. Related or common, the researchers also analyzed the genetic factors that enabled the virus to infect brain tissue and cells.
While the researchers found little evidence that the virus targets the brain directly, they discovered close network relationships between the virus and genes – proteins associated with many neurodegenerative diseases, most notably Alzheimer’s disease, pointing to pathways by which “Covid-19” can lead to dementia-like disease. Alzheimer’s.
To explore this further, they investigated possible associations between COVID-19, neuroinflammation and brain microvascular injury, both hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
Zheng explained: “We discovered that infection with the emerging coronavirus has significantly altered the signs of Alzheimer’s disease implicated in encephalitis, and that some virus entry factors are highly expressed in cells in the blood-brain barrier, and these results indicate that the virus affects several genes. Or pathways involved in neuroinflammation and microvascular injury in the brain, which may lead to Alzheimer’s-like cognitive impairment.”
The researchers also found that individuals with the APOE E4 – E4 allele, the greatest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, had reduced expression of antiviral defense genes, which may make these patients more susceptible to developing COVID-19.
“Ultimately, we hope to pave the way for research that leads to testable and measurable biomarkers that can identify patients most at risk of neurological complications with COVID-19,” Cheng says. Cheng and his team are now working to identify actionable biomarkers and new therapeutic targets for the neurological problems associated with “Covid-19” using advanced network medicine and artificial intelligence techniques.