How does COVID-19 cause stroke? Researchers at Rowan have an answer

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GLASSBORO, NJ (KYW Newsradio) — COVID-19 has been causing neurological problems in some people, including stroke, and researchers at Rowan University think they know why.

There’s a specific type of cell wall in the brain and spinal cord that prevents bad things from getting inside and wreaking havoc on our systems. After months in the lab, Dr. Peter Galie and his team have discovered that the coronavirus is shrinking those cell walls. Think of it as a plumbing problem where waste water is getting into the water supply.

“And then the stuff that’s inside the blood that shouldn’t be getting out and into the brain can leak out into the brain,” said Galie. “That’s what we think might be causing these neurological symptoms that COVID patients are experiencing.”

He explained the design of the coronavirus, with crown shaped proteins on the exterior, allows it to breach the brain-blood barriers that protect us.

“The basis of a lot of these neurological diseases is that the blood vessels get a little leaky.”

Now that they believe they found what is happening, the next steps are figuring out why and how to stop it. Those are the million dollar questions, Galie said.

“The hope is that we find these pathways that there’s already existing therapeutics that we can use to manipulate it, to treat patients,” he expressed.

If there is nothing currently on the market to beef up those cell walls, pharmaceutical companies may use their research to develop a new fortification.

“But if they don’t know what to target, if they don’t know what to go after, then they don’t know what to design,” Galie added.

There’s still a lot to learn about the brain, and Dr. Galie hopes this study will bring a little more understanding of how our brains work.