A subunit of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein crossed the blood-brain barrier in mice and was taken up not only in brain cells but also in the lungs, spleen, kidneys and liver, researchers reported in Nature Neuroscience. The findings suggest the spike protein causes the brain to release cytokines that cause inflammation and neurotoxicity and that it is cleared by the liver, said lead author William Banks, associate chief of staff at the Puget Sound Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.