In a study published by University of Queensland researchers (22/11/23), it was found that COVID-19 accelerates the presence of “zombie” or senescent cells in the brain, which accumulate naturally with age and can lead to inflammation, degeneration, and conditions like brain fog.
Using lab-grown brain organoids, they confirmed COVID causes premature brain aging and screened drugs to find ones that could selectively eliminate the senescent cells – navitoclax, ABT-737, fisetin and a dasatinib/quercetin cocktail.
These drugs rejuvenated the brain organoids and decreased neurodegenerative symptoms in a mouse model, marking a significant advancement in understanding the relationship between viral infections, aging and neurological health.
The organoid model allows experimentation that would be unethical in humans, rapidly screening therapeutics. This method could aid research into Alzheimer’s, dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases where cellular senescence is implicated.
The discovery that existing drugs can reverse COVID-19 induced brain aging provides hope these could treat persistent neurological symptoms like brain fog, and highlights the value of organoid platforms to test therapeutic candidates.
The full study can be read here.