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COVID Can Trigger Parkinson's Disease: Study

COVID can impact our bodies in several ways; in some cases, the effects can be long-lasting and severe. For example, according to a recent study, coronavirus disease has been shown to activate the same inflammatory response in the brain as Parkinson's disease [1].

Researchers at the University of Queensland have identified a potential risk for neurodegenerative conditions in people who have had COVID-19 and potential treatment.

"We found the cells effectively became 'angry', activating the same pathway that Parkinson's and Alzheimer's proteins can activate in disease, the inflammasomes (immune system receptors/sensors)," the head researcher said, adding, "It is kind of a silent killer because you don't see any outward symptoms for many years."

COVID-19 And Parkinson's Disease Risk

Point 1: Researchers examined how the virus affected the brain's immune cells, known as microglia, which play a significant role in the progression of brain diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease [2].

Point 2: To study the possible impact, the team raised human microglia (brain's immune cells) in the laboratory and infected them with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.

Point 3: When the inflammasome (immune system) pathway was activated, it created a 'fire' in the brain, killing neurons chronically and sustainably. This may explain why some people who have had COVID-19 are more likely to develop neurological symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease.

Point 4: Researchers found that the spike protein in the virus was enough to initiate this process, further aggravated by proteins in the brain linked to Parkinson's disease. In other words, if someone already has a predisposition to Parkinson's, taking COVID-19 could fuel that fire in the brain. The same is true if one has a predisposition to Alzheimer's or other dementias linked with inflammasomes.

Point 5: There is a remarkable similarity between the effects of COVID-19 on the brain and those of dementia diseases, which was concerning to the researchers [3].

The Possibility Of Treatment For Parkinson's Disease

Furthermore, the researchers identified a potential treatment after administering a class of UQ-developed inhibitory drugs that are currently being tested in clinical trials for patients suffering from Parkinson's disease.

"We found it successfully blocked the inflammatory pathway activated by COVID-19, essentially putting out the fire," Dr Albornoz Balmaceda, author of the study said [4].

Moreover, the drug reduced inflammation in both COVID-19-infected mice and human microglia cells, suggesting that this approach may be useful for future neurodegeneration prevention.

On A Final Note...

There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but medication can control the symptoms, sometimes dramatically. In more severe cases, surgery may be recommended. Therefore, this study provides new hope for Parkinson's treatment.

Despite the need for further research, this may be an innovative approach to treating a virus that otherwise has untold long-term health implications.

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