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Irish scientists make crucial discovery on blood clots in COVID-19 patients

DUBLIN: Irish scientists have discovered how life-threatening blood clots form in some coronavirus patients. Previous research has shown that blood clots are a leading cause of death in patients with COVID-19. Scientists have found that the balance between a molecule that causes clotting and its regulator can significantly disrupt patients with severe infection.

It is hoped that the findings of the study, which was led by experts from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and published in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, will aid in the development of treatments to effectively prevent this clotting.

Blood samples were collected from COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit at Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital in order to determine the cause of blood clots. The study found that the balance between a molecule that causes clotting, Von Willebrand Factor (VWF), and its regulator, Adamts13, is severely disrupted in COVID-19 patients with severe diseases. 

VWF is a large sticky adhesive-like protein that helps in the binding of platelets in the blood and thereby avoids excessive bleeding. Patients with COVID-19 exhibited high levels of VWF molecules in their blood and low levels of anti-clotting Adams 13. The researchers identified changes in proteins that caused the reduction of the regulator.

Jamie O’Sullivan, a study author and research lecturer at RCSI’s Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, 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,” he added.

The research was funded by the Irish COVID-19 Vasculopathy Study through the Health Research Board COVID-19 Rapid Response award. It also received a philanthropic grant from the 3M Foundation for the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences. The research was overseen by Prof. James O’Donnell of the RCSI and their clinical colleagues in Beaumont Hospital.

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