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Thomas Hartung at ESOF2020: COVID-19: A Brain Disease?

Thursday, September 3, 2020
10:15am CET/4:15am EST

Interviewed by the Financial Times Science Editor Clive Cookson, the results of Johns Hopkins University's breakthrough research on the profound neurological impacts of COVID-19 are presented here for the first time. Thomas Hartung, JHU's Professor and Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology, describes how lab-grown "mini-brains" (tiny tissue cultures that simulate whole organs made from human cells) can be infected with SARS-CoV-2. 

The virus infects neurons in the mini-brains via the ACE2 human protein that is known to be an important entry point for SARS-CoV-2. The virus then multiplies within the neurons. Within three days the number of copies increases at least a hundredfold.

Patients exhibit symptoms ranging from inflammation, dizziness, headache and delirium to seizures, nerve damage, and stroke. Numbness, weakness, and memory problems can persist long after the virus has gone. Subtle brain damage might only become apparent in years to come. A special concern is that brain development of the embryo in pregnant patients could be affected.  

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