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Better Assays Are Key to Understanding Neurological Conditions Caused by COVID-19

Better Assays Are Key to Understanding Neurological Conditions Caused by COVID-19


34% of COVID-19 Survivors Experience Mental Health and Neurological Conditions

Large study highlights the unmet medical need for treatment of patients developing mental health and neurological conditions following COVID-19 infection 1-in-3 (34%) COVID-19 survivors experiences a neurological or psychiatric condition. However, the underlying biological mechanism that causes symptoms remains unknown. Robust cellular assays exploring the brain’s immune cells, Microglia, could help R&D efforts.

In a recent study from the University of Oxford, UK, and TriNetX, US, scientists explored the electronic health records of 236,379 COVID-19 patients and estimated that one-in-three COVID-19 survivors (34%) were diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within the first six months following infection.The scientists compared the data with data sets from patients diagnosed with flu and respiratory tract infections over the same time frame as the COVID-19 patients, 20 January 2020 to 13 December 2020. Overall, they show that the increased risk of developing mental health and neurological conditions is significantly higher following COVID-19 infection. Anxiety (17%) and mood disorders (14%) were the most common. Neurological diagnoses such as stroke and dementia were rarer but still elevated compared to the control group in those who had been seriously ill during COVID-19 infection. For example, of those who had been admitted to intensive care, 7% had a stroke and almost 2% were diagnosed with dementia. Professor Paul Harrison, lead author of the study, from the University of Oxford, UK, is quoted in a Lancet press release as saying: “These are real-world data from a large number of patients. They confirm the high rates of psychiatric diagnoses after COVID-19, and show that serious disorders affecting the nervous system (such as stroke and dementia) occur too. While the latter are much rarer, they are significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19.” Dr. Maxime Taquet, a co-author of the study, from the University of Oxford, UK, said: “Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after COVID-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections, even when patients are matched for other risk factors…” Adding: “The study cannot reveal the mechanisms involved but does point to the need for urgent research to identify these, with a view to preventing or treating them.”

Ongoing R&D efforts are needed to reveal mechanism and develop therapies

Despite the massive real-world data set showing a causal link between COVID-19 infection and neurological and psychiatric conditions, the mechanism underlying the development of the conditions following infection remains unknown. Further research will be needed to unlock this understanding and develop assays to help develop suitable therapies. The link between infection, and immune responses in the brain, and neurological and psychiatric disease has been well documented for some time. Better cellular assays are vital to accelerating R&D efforts to meet this medical need. Particularly assays that use the brain’s immune cells, Microglia. As our Chief Scientific Officer, Ashley Barnes explains: “This study highlights COVID-19 infection may be a significant risk factor for the development of mental health conditions and neurological disease. And, with ever-growing numbers of people being infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, advancing understanding in this area is urgent.” Further explaining: “As the predominant immune cell type in the CNS, the use of robust human Microglia will be key for R&D and assay development groups wanting to tackle the issue of COVID-19 related psychiatric and neurological conditions. Our Human stem cell (iPSC)-derived Microglia can help accelerate these efforts.”

Robust, infinite sources of Microglia are readily available for R&D and Assay Development scientists

Our homogenous and reproducible population of iPSC-derived Microglia exhibit physiologically relevant functionality as they are highly phagocytic and produce cytokines in response to pathogens. Our iPSC-derived Microglia also express the microglia-specific marker TMEM119 along with myeloid markers TREM2 and IBA-1. These phenotypes make iPSC-derived Microglia suitable models for investigating neuroinflammation.

To find out more about our iPSC-derived Microglia and how they can be used in co-culture with cortical neurons CLICK HERE. To discover how Axol can perform neuro-immunological assays in house to expedite your therapeutic development contact us for more information: support@axolbio.com


Fig.1 Immunocytochemistry of Human iPSC-derived Microglia co-cultured with Human iPSC-derived cortical neurons reveals microglia specific maker expression TMEM119 and neuronal marker β-3 Tubulin.

Press enquiries

Dr. Michelle Ricketts

Axol Bioscience

T: +44 1223 751051

E: m.ricketts@axolbio.com

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About Axol Bioscience

Axol was co-founded by Jonathan Milner, PhD and Yichen Shi, PhD whose combined expertise and entrepreneurial spirit was the driving force behind the creation of Axol – where innovation, quality and customer service are key. Axol produces highly validated, human cells and critical reagents such as media and growth supplements. The Axol team is passionate about great science, delivering superb customer service and support and innovating future products to help customers advance their research faster. To find out more, visit axolbio.com.

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