The pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 stimulates efforts and approaches to understand its global spread. Although the recent introduction of the vaccine is a crucial prophylactic step, the effective treatment for SARS-CoV-2 is still undiscovered. A deep evaluation of symptoms and clinical parameters, as well as molecular changes, is necessary to comprehend COVID-19 and propose a remedy for affected people to fight that disease.
The analysis of available clinical data and SARS-CoV-2 infection markers underlined the main pathogenic process in COVID-19 is cytokine storm and inflammation. That led us to suggest that the most important pathogenic feature of SARS-CoV-2 leading to COVID-19 is oxidative stress and cellular damage. DNA methylation is a significant epigenetic control program that modulates gene expression in a plethora of organisms. The excess of ROS triggers epigenetic machinery in the cell by damaging 5-methylcytosine, which results in total genome hypomethylation. The lowering/decreasing of 5-methylcytosine contents is the basis of many pathologies, like cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Global DNA hypomethylation is also observed during cellular senescence. Epigenetic dysregulation, immune defects, advanced biological age, and other factors increase the risk of cytokine storm and COVID-19 fatality.
Testing COVID-19 patients for total DNA methylation and oxidation, could be a step initial for follow-up MRI scans combined with a neurological examination. That suggests the epigenetic pattern of SARS-CoV2 infection in the central nervous system as the background for further and delayed pathologies. Many data have already been collected presenting its acute manifestations in the brain. However, chronic consequences are still unknown. Because brain is the top receiver of blood per cardiac output, and therefore especially prone to redox imbalance. The already detected MRI changes in COVID-19 patients include FLAIR intensity disturbances, typically found in brain tumors, neurodegenerative disorders, and neuroinflammation.
There is still a long way to go before we fully understand SARS-CoV-2 action and pathogenesis of COVID-19, but we know already that inflammation, as well as natural compounds, are elements of the equation, and natural antioxidants should be considered as promising candidates for effectively treating patients with SARS-CoV-2.
Anna-Maria Barciszewska graduated from Poznan University of Medical Sciences with MD degree in 2005. Since then she works in the Chair and Department of Neurosurgery and Neurotraumatology at PUMS, where she received PhD degree (2011) and habilitation (2020). She is a board certified neurosurgeon (2013). She has also MSc degree in chemistry (2005) and philosophy (2008) from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.
In her research work she focuses on epigenetic characterization of brain tumors in the context of diagnostic markers, response to treatment and new therapies in neurooncology.