A new understanding of how and why some COVID-19 patients develop life-threatening blood clots could lead to new preventative treatments.
Previous research has established that blood clotting is a significant cause of death in patients with COVID-19. In order to understand the reasons for blood clotting, scientists from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences analysed blood samples that were taken from COVID-19 patients in the Beaumont Hospital Intensive Care Unit in Dublin.
They found that the balance between a molecule that causes clotting, called von Willebrand Factor (VWF), and its regulator, called ADAMTS13, is severely disrupted in patients with severe COVID-19.
The work has been published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis.
What causes blood clots
When compared to control groups, the blood of COVID-19 patients had higher levels of the pro-clotting VWF molecules and lower levels of the anti-clotting ADAMTS13. Furthermore, the researchers identified other changes in proteins that caused the reduction of ADAMTS13.
Dr Jamie O’Sullivan, the study’s corresponding author and research lecturer within the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology at RCSI, said: “Our research helps provide insights into the mechanisms that cause severe blood clots in patients with COVID-19, which is critical to developing more effective treatments.
“While more research is needed to determine whether targets aimed at correcting the levels of ADAMTS13 and VWF may be a successful therapeutic intervention, it is important that we continue to develop therapies for patients with COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be unavailable to many people throughout the world, and it is important that we provide effective treatments to them and to those with breakthrough infections.”
The research was funded by Irish COVID-19 Vasculopathy Study (ICVS), through the Health Research Board COVID-19 Rapid Response award, as well as a philanthropic grant from the 3M Foundation to RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in support of COVID-19 research.