November 24, 2020

Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Neural Cells and Brain Organoids Reveal SARS-CoV-2 Neurotropism

Neurological complications are common in patients with COVID-19. While SARS-CoV-2, the causal pathogen of COVID-19, has been detected in some patient brains, its ability to infect brain cells and impact their function are not well understood, and experimental models using human brain cells are urgently needed. Here we investigated the susceptibility of human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived monolayer brain cells and region-specific brain organoids to SARS-CoV-2 infection. We found modest numbers of infected neurons and astrocytes, but greater infection of choroid plexus epithelial cells. We optimized a protocol to generate choroid plexus organoids from hiPSCs, which revealed productive SARS-CoV-2 infection that leads to increased cell death and transcriptional dysregulation indicative of an inflammatory response and cellular function deficits. Together, our results provide evidence for SARS-CoV-2 neurotropism and support use of hiPSC-derived brain organoids as a platform to investigate the cellular susceptibility, disease mechanisms, and treatment strategies for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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