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Study Combining Brain MRI Findings and Latest RNA Sequencing Technology to Identify Drugs for Preventing Post-COVID Cognitive Impairment

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 07 Sep 2021
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Image: Study Combining Brain MRI Findings and Latest RNA Sequencing Technology to Identify Drugs for Preventing Post-COVID Cognitive Impairment (Photo courtesy of John Emerson)
Image: Study Combining Brain MRI Findings and Latest RNA Sequencing Technology to Identify Drugs for Preventing Post-COVID Cognitive Impairment (Photo courtesy of John Emerson)
A new study will examine how COVID-19 is affecting individuals in a number of cognitive-related areas, including memory loss, “brain fog,” and dementia.

Scientists at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ, USA) are spearheading the characterization of cognitive impairment following mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The team will assess each person’s cognition, mood, and sleep patterns to identify potential causes of brain fog and compare their brain MRI findings with biochemical signatures of neuroinflammation. They will analyze microglial cells - critically important immune cells in the brain - from individuals who have had COVID-19 to determine whether those cells can be used to predict the persistence of post-COVID cognitive impairment (PCCI). This will allow researchers to begin to generate new hypotheses on why these cells may dysfunction in COVID-19 and PCCI, what the shared inflammatory mechanisms are between PCCI and Alzheimer’s disease, and whether FDA-approved drugs can be repurposed to prevent the onset of PCCI or improve its outcomes

“Many people who recover from mild or moderate COVID-19 notice slowed thinking or memory loss, and this motivated us to leverage our experience in studying cognitive issues related to Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and HIV to examine this phenomenon,” said Dr. William T. Hu, associate professor and chief of cognitive neurology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, who is leading the study.

“We have found neuroinflammation is a common theme across many brain disorders, but not all neuroinflammation is the same,” he noted. “We developed a roadmap to study the protein and cellular changes involved in worsening - as well as alleviating - symptoms of brain fog. In addition, we are using the latest RNA sequencing technology to understand how inflammatory cells ‘misbehave’ to cause memory/thinking dysfunction in long COVID.”

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