Biomedical scientists from LMU have discovered a new blood test that has been found in the blood of Covid-19 patients. It offers insight into the development and course of the disease and could help in better diagnosis.
Many people infected with SARS-CoV-2 don’t show any symptoms or feel only slightly unwell. However, infections can cause the clinical manifestations of Covid-19. This can be seen in the form of inflammations and changes in blood coagulation. Moreover, doctors have observed issues with the immune system in patients suffering from Covid-19, with low lymphocyte counts in the blood.
We already knew there was a connection between the components of blood coagulation and the immune response. However, the reasons and mechanisms were not fully understood.”
Professor Thomas Brocker, Researcher at LMU’s Biomedical Center Munich
In the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, Brocker and colleagues have now discussed the role of phosphatidylserine in Covid-19. It is a molecule typically found in cell walls and could be crucial in pathophysiological processes connected to the blood coagulation or the immune system. It can also be utilized as a biomarker to predict the severity of the disease through the blood test.
Study using blood samples from LMU’s Covid-19 register
Brocker’s lab previously created a test that detects phosphatidylserine in or on blood cells. The present study involved the analysis of blood samples from 54 patients from LMU’s Covid-19 registry (CORKUM), between April 2020 and February 2021. All patients had Covid-19 at different levels of severity. The researchers also examined samples from 12 healthy donors as well as 35 patients suffering from Covid-19. The study was focused on peripheral blood mononuclear cells kinds like lymphocytes or monocytes.
All immune cells were evaluated by a phosphatidylserine test, and then separated by means of flow cytometry, which is a physical method. The instrument simultaneously created microscopic images of every cell. The images allowed researchers to determine if the phosphatidylserine was present and where it was found. This showed that the immune cells didn’t carry the signal inside them. Brocker states that lymphocytes collected from patients suffering from Covid-19 were loaded on the surface by blood platelets. This was confirmed based on the signal. Blood platelets , in turn, accelerate coagulation. The LMU scientist suggests that phosphatidylserine could be an indicator of dysregulated inflammation and the coagulation disorder in patients suffering from Covid-19.
A brand new marker for Covid-19.
The results also revealed a strong correlation between the severity and the phosphatidylserine level of Covid-19. The severity of the disease was correlated with elevated levels during the active phase. This could help in determining the best treatment. “As an indicator phosphatidylserine was superior to known lab markers for inflammatory processes within the body, for leukocytes and for coagulation factors that are currently used in the clinical evaluation of Covid-19,” says Brocker. Numerous laboratory parameters are currently used to classify and form the basis for the WHO scale ranging from zero points (healthy) to eight points (dead from Covid-19).
Brocker’s system is specifically designed for research laboratories since few hospitals have flow cytometers equipped with imaging capabilities. The LMU researchers are currently looking to determine if standard flow cytometers, like the ones that a lot of hospitals have in their labs are suitable for measurement.
Rausch, L., et al. (2021) Binding of phosphatidylserine-positive microparticles by PBMCs classifies disease severity in COVID-19 patients. Journal of Extracellular Vesicles. doi.org/10.1002/jev2.12173.
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