Investigating Neurological and Neuropsychiatric Complications Following COVID-19 Infections: Eurice Joins New EU Research Project NEUROCOV
Within the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a further pandemic has started to emerge – that of long-term neurological and neuropsychiatric complications. These include a compromised sense of smell and taste, impaired ability to concentrate, memory problems, stroke, and significant brain scan alterations among COVID-19 patients across all ages and independent of COVID-19 severity. The impact of this phenomenon, also called NeuroCOVID, is immense, and both society and health care systems are at risk of unprecedented long-term consequences. In fact, affected individuals suffer significantly in their everyday social and professional lives over a long period, resulting in sharply increasing health care costs.
Eurice is part of the just-launched research project NEUROCOV which will address this major unmet need by focusing on the interplay between the nervous tissue and the immune/inflammatory response triggered by SARS-CoV-2 infection. Over the next five years, the interdisciplinary NEUROCOV consortium will investigate the role of the host-virus interplay in the occurrence of neurological and psychiatric symptoms resulting from COVID-19 as a foundation for new treatment options.
Although the range of neurological deficits and neuropsychiatric complications of COVID-19 are highly varied, both their prevalence and the extent of their diversity are starting to be charted with increasing precision. Yet, still little is known about which brain cell types are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, how damage occurs (both directly and indirectly as a result of the inflammatory and immune responses), and, above all, what makes individuals vulnerable or resistant to such complications. Hence, both predictive and therapeutic options are currently lacking.
Providing New Insights into Immune System Involvement of NeuroCOVID
NEUROCOV will investigate underlying disease mechanisms and develop practical approaches to predict the risk for neurological symptoms. This will be done through studies addressing patients of all ages in different European countries and also engaging the LongCOVID patients’ communities, thereby tackling the multifaceted societal dimensions of NeuroCOVID. A hallmark of the project is its multi-scale design that reaches all the way from the population-wide socioeconomic impact to the molecular mechanisms that underlie individual vulnerabilities to NeuroCOVID. To make this possible, highly interdisciplinary teams will study the host-virus interaction by combining brain organoid and high-resolution OMIC technologies with Artificial Intelligence. The goal is to develop predictive models to assess the individual risk of developing NeuroCOVID complications and their long-term impact. Central to this endeavour is the close collaboration with patients, especially with regard to ensuring that societal needs and concerns are carefully addressed.
“Next to innovative projects such as MELISSA, KATY and HCA|Organoid, we are excited to expand our portfolio of patient-centric research projects”, asserts Managing Director of Eurice, Jörg Scherer. “It is important to advance knowledge of COVID-19 and its long-term effects on individuals and society as a whole while the pandemic is still ongoing. With its emphasis on neurological and neuropsychiatric complications, its multifaceted focus on OMICS and its AI-based approach, NEUROCOV is pushing the current scientific status quo on COVID-19 beyond state of the art. At Eurice, we take pride in providing our knowledge in project management, communication, dissemination and exploitation to such a cutting-edge, timely project which will make a critical contribution to finding treatments for those affected by LongCOVID.”
Through the funding of the European Union’s Horizon Europe Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, the project will receive nearly EUR 8.4 million over the next five years. NEUROCOV is coordinated by the DZNE. Academic and clinical partner institutions from Belgium, Germany, Finland, Italy, Israel, Sweden, and The Netherlands make up the highly interdisciplinary team of experts.
To learn more about NEUROCOV, please visit the project website: https://www.neurocov.eu