Neuroinvasive potential of SARS-CoV-2 revealed in a human brain organoid model

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
E. SongAkiko Iwasaki


Although COVID-19 is considered to be primarily a respiratory disease, SARS-CoV-2 affects multiple organ systems including the central nervous system (CNS). Reports indicate that 30-60% of patients with COVID-19 suffer from CNS symptoms. Yet, there is no consensus whether the virus can infect the brain, or what the consequences of infection are. Following SARS-CoV-2 infection of human brain organoids, clear evidence of infection was observed, with accompanying metabolic changes in the infected and neighboring neurons. Further, no evidence for the type I interferon responses was detected. We demonstrate that neuronal infection can be prevented either by blocking ACE2 with antibodies or by administering cerebrospinal fluid from a COVID-19 patient. Finally, using mice overexpressing human ACE2, we demonstrate in vivo that SARS-CoV-2 neuroinvasion, but not respiratory infection, is associated with mortality. These results provide evidence for the neuroinvasive capacity of SARS-CoV2, and an unexpected consequence of direct infection of neurons by SARS-CoV2.

Methods Mentioned

Electron microscopy
single cell sequencing
light sheet microscopy

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