Researchers have reported that the levels of thrombopoietin (THPO), a growth factor essential to megakariocyte proliferation, are elevated in COVID-19 patients. THPO can be used as an early biomarker for COVID-19 and to identify patients who may develop crtitical illness during the course of the disease. These findings were recently published in the journal eBioMedicine.
COVID-19 patients often develop inflammatory complications referred to as “cytokine storm” and is associated with high levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6). These changes lead to disturbances in coagulation and activation of platelets. THPO is a crucial factor that regulates platelet activation, and its levels are elevated in several critical diseases. Researchers have evaluated the potential use of IL-6 and THPO as diagnostic and prognostic markers for COVID-19 severity.
This prospective cohort study enrolled 66 patients that were presenting COVID-19 symptoms when they visited the emergency department. Forty-seven patients were COVID-19 positive, and the remaining 19 were negative; hence, they were used in the study as non-COVID-19 controls. The study also included a group of 18 healthy individuals, which served as a second control group. The study has explored the THPO levels in the plasma of COVID-19 patients and its role in priming platelet activation in vitro.
The researchers found that the levels of THPO were elevated in COVID-19 patients as compared to non-COVID-19 patients and healthy controls. Also, plasma from COVID-19 patients primes in vitro platelet activation.
The study’s findings show that THPO can be used as an early biomarker for COVID-19 patients at risk of developing the critical illness. Further, elevated THPO may enhance platelet activation and leukocyte-platelet interaction in COVID-19 patients.