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Article Publish Status: FREE
Abstract Title:

Could SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Be Responsible for Long-COVID Syndrome?

Abstract Source:

Mol Neurobiol. 2022 Jan 13. Epub 2022 Jan 13. PMID: 35028901

Abstract Author(s):

Theoharis C Theoharides

Article Affiliation:

Theoharis C Theoharides

Abstract:

SARS-CoV-2 infects cells via its spike protein binding to its surface receptor on target cells and results in acute symptoms involving especially the lungs known as COVID-19. However, increasing evidence indicates that many patients develop a chronic condition characterized by fatigue and neuropsychiatric symptoms, termed long-COVID. Most of the vaccines produced so far for COVID-19 direct mammalian cells via either mRNA or an adenovirus vector to express the spike protein, or administer recombinant spike protein, which is recognized by the immune system leading to the production of neutralizing antibodies. Recent publications provide new findings that may help decipher the pathogenesis of long-COVID. One paper reported perivascular inflammation in brains of deceased patients with COVID-19, while others showed that the spike protein could damage the endothelium in an animal model, that it could disrupt an in vitro model of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), and that it can cross the BBB resulting in perivascular inflammation. Moreover, the spike protein appears to share antigenic epitopes with human molecular chaperons resulting in autoimmunity and can activate toll-like receptors (TLRs), leading to release of inflammatory cytokines. Moreover, some antibodies produced against the spike protein may not be neutralizing, but may change its conformation rendering it more likely to bind to its receptor. As a result, one wonders whether the spike protein entering the brain or being expressed by brain cells could activate microglia, alone or together with inflammatory cytokines, since protective antibodies could not cross the BBB, leading to neuro-inflammation and contributing to long-COVID. Hence, there is urgent need to better understand the neurotoxic effects of the spike protein and to consider possible interventions to mitigate spike protein-related detrimental effects to the brain, possibly via use of small natural molecules, especially the flavonoids luteolin and quercetin.

Study Type : Review

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