Using Stem Cells to Investigate How COVID-19 Affects the Brain

Dr. Julien Muffat, The Hospital for Sick Children

Dr. Yun Li, The Hospital for Sick Children

Recent evidence indicates that in addition to the severe impacts SARS-CoV-2 has on a patient’s lungs, it also targets the brain. Many patients diagnosed with COVID-19 report loss of smell, taste, pain, visual disturbances, and headaches which are clues that the virus is infecting the specialized cells of the brain. At the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Drs. Julien Muffat & Yun Li are leading a team that are assessing how and why the virus is targeting the brain. They are building upon their previous Zika virus research, an illness best known for causing serious birth defects in babies.

The Muffat & Li research team are working to understand which types of cells in the brain are most vulnerable and how they respond once in contact with SARS-CoV-2. In addition, they are studying how the immune cells that reside in the brain are impacted by the virus and what role they play in brain-related symptoms. By understanding how SARS-CoV-2 affects brain tissues a foundation will be established for addressing the sensory impacts that are being reported by many COVID-19 patients.

SCN awarded $180K to support this project as part of its COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Initiative, and the SCN award was complemented by partner support totaling $98K.

To learn more about Stem Cells in the Fight Against COVID-19 click here.

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