Covid accelerates 'zombie cells' in the brain, Australian study finds

Researcher Dr Julio Aguado said the alarming findings prompted the team to look for a solution, and they have taken 'a significant step forward'.

An Australian study has found Covid accelerates 'zombie' cells in the brain which are linked to premature ageing. But the researchers believe they have also found a way to reverse the concerning cellular process.

Senescent or 'zombie' cells naturally accumulate as the brain gets older. It is believed those who have had Covid are more likely to have the process of these cells appearing speed up.

"Senescent cells are known to drive tissue inflammation and degeneration, leaving patients exposed to cognitive impairments like brain fog and memory loss," University of Queensland's Australia Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology researcher, Dr Julio Aguado, said.

'Zombie' cells were accelerated in a synthetic brain model which glows green, blue and yellow under a microscope.
An Australia study found 'zombie' cells were accelerated in synthetic brain models, pictured here under a microscope. Source: University of Queensland

Queensland researchers determined to find solution

Aguado confirmed that finding Covid as an accelerant for premature ageing prompted his team to try and find a solution, looking at possible resets to the biological brain clock.

The researchers used synthetic brain models which were "grown in a laboratory from human stem cells" to study how these negative impacts could be combatted, and turned to therapeutic solutions in an attempt to remove the 'zombie' cells.

Right, Dr Julio Aguado wears safety glasses over his reading glasses while wearing a white lab coat. Left, he sits on a chair holding apparatus while his research colleague stands over him.
Dr Julio Aguado and the research team found therapeutics which removed the unwanted cells linked to premature aging. Source: University of Queensland

The research team found four drugs that selectively removed the unwanted cells and subsequently decreased the chance of neurodegenerative symptoms while also rejuvenating the brain — navitoclax, ABT-737, fisetin and a cocktail of dasatinib plus quercetin (D+Q).

“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,” Aguado said.

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