"SARS-CoV-2 Spike Proteins Disrupt the Blood-Brain Barrier, Potentially Raising Risk of Neurological Damage in COVID-19 Patients"
"A lot of people think of it as a respiratory disease, but it's really a vascular disease," says Assistant Research Professor Uri Manor, who is co-senior author of the study. "That could explain why some people have strokes, and why some people have issues in other parts of the body. The commonality between them is that they all have vascular underpinnings."
"If you remove the replicating capabilities of the virus, it still has a major damaging effect on the vascular cells, simply by virtue of its ability to bind to this ACE2 receptor, the S protein receptor, now famous thanks to COVID,"
COVID-19 spike proteins may cause neurological issues
There is some previous evidence to suggest that following Covid-19 illness, the spike protein can remain in the bloodstream after the virus has gone and travel far from the site of infection. This research could help explain and ultimately treat some of the effects of severe Covid-19 infection, where levels of the virus are particularly high. "
Interestingly, it has been shown that HSV-1 spike protein binds to heparin and increases the aggregation of amyloid β (Aβ42) peptides on its surface spikes . This study suggests that the heparin-binding site of the spike protein might act as a binding site for Aβ42 peptides and thus could dock to the viral surface and catalyze aggregation of Aβ42. As the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2, which is located within the S1 subunit of spike glycoprotein has several heparin binding sites [, , ], the same mechanism of aggregation of neurodegeneration causing proteins such as Aβ, α-synuclein, tau, prions, and TDP-43 can be observed in COVID-19 infection in the brain."
The vaccine spike protein is different.
US fact checking website Health Feedback, which uses experts to verify claims about health science, said Dr Bridle's statement "rests on the assumption that if the viral spike protein causes cardiovascular toxicity in COVID-19 patients, the spike protein produced in vaccinated people should be toxic as well".
However, Health Feedback said this assumption was incorrect: "While both mRNA vaccines and viral vector vaccines carry the instructions to produce the entire spike protein, the cells break down much of the protein into small fragments. Furthermore, unlike infection, the spike protein from COVID-19 vaccination doesn't get assembled into new viral particles."
"Vaccine skeptics have seized on the study to cast doubt on the safety of vaccines. But a review of the study's findings shows that the concerns raised by vaccine doubters are much ado about nothing.
The vascular endothelium is an important player in the illness and death associated with COVID-19. The endothelium is a system of cells that line and protect the inside of blood vessels. SARS-CoV2 injures the endothelium leading to blood clots, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, and stroke. Despite the established link between COVID-19 and these cardiovascular complications, the mechanism by which they develop is unknown.
Researchers from Jiaotong University; the University of California, San Diego; and the Salk Institute used a pseudovirus coated with spike protein to investigate the effects of the viral protein on endothelial cells. Pseudoviruses – which were first developed over 50 years ago – contain the outer shell of the virus, but they lack the viral genes needed to reproduce.
Hamsters treated with the spike protein coated pseudovirus showed lung damage similar to that seen in humans infected with SARS-CoV2. When researchers added pseudovirus to cultured endothelial cells they found that the mitochondria inside the cells were injured. Since mitochondria are responsible for providing energy to cells, their dysfunction can cause cell death.
When isolated pulmonary arteries were exposed to the spike protein carrying pseudovirus there was some disruption in the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. The decreased ability to expand blood vessels that serve the lungs could impair the ability of the body to take up oxygen from lungs that are damaged by the virus.
The novelty of this study was the discovery that the spike protein itself causes damage, and that the pathway triggered by the spike protein could explain the widespread cardiovascular complications that develop in COVID-19 patients.
A Twisted Tale
Shortly after Lei and colleagues published their study, vaccine skeptics touted the findings as proof that newly developed COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous. Afterall, if COVID-19 vaccines produce spike protein to trigger immunity, and that same spike protein causes injury, then vaccines are really no different than the disease they are designed to prevent.
The problem with these claims is that science doesn't support their arguments.
The Long Road to Perdition....
In order to damage the endothelium of blood vessels, COVID-19 vaccines have to enter the vascular system and infect cells that circulate in the blood. Data collected by the European Medicines Agency shows that no significant amount of vaccine enters the circulation (3). The confinement of the expressed spike protein away from the circulatory system significant prevents it from causing damage to the vascular endothelium.
Redesigning the Spike Protein
The spike protein attaches SARS-CoV2 to cells through a receptor called ACE2. In order to fully interact, the spike protein must undergo a conformational change.
A research team lead by Dr. Barney Graham from the Vaccine Research Center at the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases created an engineered form of the spike protein that is unable to make the shape change required to effectively bind to cells (5). The Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines all use this inactivated spike protein, which means any spike protein that is produced by the vaccine is not able to be activated. This safety-switch limits the ability of the spike protein to bind ACE2 and limits its ability to cause damage.
Stuck in a Hole
In addition to engineering the spike protein so it can not be fully activated the protein is tagged with an extra piece called a "transmembrane anchor" (6). The transmembrane anchor allows the spike protein to appear on the surface – or membrane – of the cell, but it is held in place by the anchor. This prevents the spike protein from drifting away and creates a fixed target for the immune system to recognize the foreign protein."
So far, there is no scientific evidence available that suggests that spike proteins created in our bodies from the COVID-19 vaccines are toxic or damaging our organs. COVID-19 vaccines are relatively new and long-term side effects are yet to be known. However, the vaccines have met the safety standards of many government and international safety agencies.
Several systems help us monitor vaccine safety. In the United States these include the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), the Post-License Rapid Immunization Safety Monitoring (PRISM), and the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project (CISA). These systems are used by scientists to monitor side effects and any other patterns of risks from vaccines.
The COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to 135 million people in the United States. As expected with any vaccine, some fully vaccinated people still got sick, hospitalized, and/or died. These "breakthrough cases" are a very small percentage of those vaccinated (<0.001%) and are being studied to detect any relevant patterns.
So far no scientific evidence is available that gives credence to claims that spike proteins created from vaccines travel in our bloodstreams. Research shows that spike proteins stay stuck to the surface of the cells around the vaccine's injection site. They are not known to wander around to other parts of the body.
A very tiny dose of the vaccine does make it to the bloodstream (about 1%), but as soon as it gets to the liver, the enzymes there destroy it completely. The U.S. CDC refers to the spike protein made from the vaccine as "harmless."
There is no evidence that the spike protein in vaccines "is toxic or that it lingers at any toxic level in the body after vaccination," an FDA spokesperson told us in an email.
Jason McLellan, a structural biologist at the University of Texas at Austin who has been studying spike proteins in other coronaviruses for years and whose work was fundamental for the development of COVID-19 vaccines, said Bridle's statements are not correct.
"The spike protein is not pathogenic. It is not a toxin," McLellan told us in an email. "I have not seen any data to support what Bridle claims."
How long does the mRNA vaccine stay in the body?
However, a separate study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that heart inflammation events are far more likely after COVID-19 infection than vaccination."
"But because reinfection is possible and COVID-19 can cause severe medical complications, it's recommended that people who have already had COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine. A recent study showed that unvaccinated people who already had COVID-19 are more than twice as likely as fully vaccinated people to be reinfected with COVID-19.
Recent research also suggests that people who got COVID-19 in 2020 and then received mRNA vaccines produce very high levels of antibodies that are likely effective against current and, possibly, future variants. Some scientists call this hybrid immunity."