The researchers found four drugs that selectively eliminated the cells.
Scientists at the University of Queensland have made a significant breakthrough in their research on Covid-19's impact on brain health. Using synthetic brain organoid models grown in a laboratory from human stem cells, they have identified four drugs that can potentially reverse a cellular process triggered by Covid-19, which contributes to premature brain aging. This discovery holds promise for mitigating the long-term neurological effects of Covid-19 infection.
"We found Covid-19 accelerates the presence of 'zombie' or senescent cells, which accumulate naturally and gradually in the brain as we get older," said Dr Julio Aguado from UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).
"Senescent cells are known to drive tissue inflammation and degeneration, leaving patients exposed to cognitive impairments like brain fog and memory loss."
Dr Aguado said confirmation that Covid-19 was a catalyst for this premature aging prompted an attempt to reset the biological brain clock.
"We used the brain organoids to screen a range of therapeutics, looking for any capable of removing those senescent cells," he said.
As per a release, the researchers found four drugs that selectively eliminated the cells caused by Covid-19 - navitoclax, ABT-737, fisetin, and a cocktail of dasatinib plus quercetin (D+Q).
Dr Aguado said the drugs rejuvenated the brain and decreased the chance of neurodegenerative symptoms in the organoids, as well as in a mouse model infected with Covid-19.
"More research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms at play, but this study marks a significant step forward in our knowledge of the intricate relationship between viral infections, ageing and neurological well-being," he said.
"Long term, we can expect widespread use of these drugs to treat persistent post-acute infection syndromes caused by viral infections like Covid-19."