As the scientific community continues to figure out the aftereffects of Covid, researchers are examining how the virus affects the brain. Dr Rosemarie Mactutus Booze, a professor at the University of South Carolina, is an established researcher investigating exactly what Covid survivors deal with neurologically and through that process, she has made startling discoveries about supporting cells.
Covid and supporting cells
Contrary to what scientists initially thought, though, the virus seems to affect supporting cells more than neurons – which are currently the focus of most research. Dr Booze says: ‘They’re a bit mysterious right now, but I think the whole field is coming to understand more how they’re not just supporting cells, that they are major players in the brain. They’re susceptible to infection, and without them interacting with the neurons, the neurons degenerate.’
Glial cells, specifically, are the supporting cells that Dr Booze thinks researchers should be focusing on. These cells are the ‘glue holding the brain together’, but Dr Booze reports that ‘they’re a lot more than glue. They’re very active metabolically, and they do a lot of neurochemical processes.’
Covid and the senses
The Covid virus can also take a toll on a person’s senses, especially the sense of smell. As more people began to contract the virus, losing the sense of smell became one of the most frequently reported symptoms among patients – which is ‘really unusual for a virus other than a cold,’ according to Booze.
As far as the future of viral neurologic research, Dr Rosemarie Mactutus Booze is looking toward finding out more about supporting cells, particularly how Glial cells are affecting our brains. She also is intrigued by how HIV can affect neurocognitive disorders. Current research shows the potential for Covid to accelerate conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, which is concerning for patients and researchers alike.
Along with her research into support cells, Dr Booze is also looking at how viral infections can accelerate age-related dementia or other neurological conditions. She examines how people who took antiretroviral drugs in the late 1980s are being impacted now that they start to age. As they become older, their brains may react to the drugs differently, so her team is interested in monitoring these individuals for any changes.
Why Dr Rosemarie mactutus booze started researching the brain
Dr Booze became interested in researching the brain after her father passed away from Parkinson’s disease. After gaining initial interest in the field, she started pursuing a career in how viral infections can affect a person’s brain both in the short-term and long-term. Dr Rosemarie Mactutus Booze began studying viruses like HIV, discovering essential facts about how the virus how can linger in the brain despite being undetectable in the blood after a patient takes medication.
Teaching students is dear to her heart, primarily for undergraduate students. Dr Booze reflects on her time as a professor, emphasising the impact her students can have on whatever field they choose to go into.
Dr Rosemarie Mactutus Booze has an established history as a researcher at institutions like Duke University, Wake Forest University, the University of Kentucky, and now the University of South Carolina. Currently, Dr Rosemarie Booze serves as the Bicentennial Endowed Chair in Behavioral Neuroscience in the USC Department of Psychology and is the principal investigator on three research ROI grants from the National Institutes of Health to study the neurological and psychological effects of viruses on the brain. From there, Dr Booze is discovering much about the brain and unlocking the secrets of how supporting brain cells are affecting us all.
David Tobin did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.