Protein identified as possibly responsible for COVID-19 severity

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The School of Biosciences at the University of Kent (United Kingdom) and the Institute of Medical Virology at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main (Germany) have identified that a glycoprotein known as transferrin can make a key contribution to serious forms of COVID- 19.

It is currently unknown why some people develop only mild or no symptoms when infected, while others experience severe forms of the disease. However, it is known that the risk of COVID-19 becoming severe increases with age and is higher in men than in women. Many severe cases are characterized by increased blood clotting and the formation of thrombosis.

The team combined existing data on gene expression in humans and infected cells to look for molecules that intervene in blood clotting that differ between women and men, change with age, and are regulated in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Of more than 200 candidate factors, the researchers identified a glycoprotein called transferrin as a procoagulant (a cause of blood clotting) that increases with age, is greater in men than in women, and is greater in cells infected by SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, transferrin may have potential as a biomarker for the early identification of patients with COVID-19 who are at high risk for severe disease.

“It is very exciting to participate in a study so important that it can improve therapies for COVID-19 in its most serious form,” says the study’s first author, Katie-May McLaughlin.

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