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Category Archives: Genetic Medicine

Blood type and genetics may determine your odds of contracting the coronavirus, study finds – MarketWatch

Factors such as age and underlying health conditions such as diabetes can put you at a higher risk of contracting coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But one more factor that could affect your chances of getting coronavirus is your blood type, at least according to one recent study.

People who have blood Type A were associated with a 45% higher risk of acquiring COVID-19 compared to people with other blood types, according to a study published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine by a team of European scientists. Meanwhile, people with blood Type O, the most common blood type, less likely to get coronavirus as people with other blood types.

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The researchers arrived at this result after performing genetic analysis on more than 1,900 severely ill coronavirus patients in Spain and Italy and comparing them with over 2,000 patients who were not sick.

Also see: Heres a look at who is most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and how much they earn for taking that risk

A commonality they found was a DNA cluster which determines blood types, among other components within the human body. This prompted further research into which specific blood types were present in the majority of the severe cases of coronavirus they looked at.

Because the DNA cluster is found in other parts of the body, it may not be the case that blood type can predict ones risk of contracting coronavirus, said Roy Silverstein, a hematologist who is the chairman of the department of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Those who are not Type A should not interpret this study to mean that they can let their guard down. Similarly, the data are not yet convincing enough to recommend that those with Type A need to do even more than what is recommended.

Those who are not type A should not interpret this study to mean that they can let their guard down, Silverstein, former president the American Society of Hematology, said. Similarly, the data are not yet convincing enough to recommend that those with Type A need to do even more than what is recommended.

Everyone needs to pay attention to COVID-19 prevention by following well-accepted guidelines related to social distancing, face covering, hand-washing, and self-isolation and testing in the setting of possible COVID-related symptoms.

A prior study published by the Southern University of Science and Technology in China, which has not been peer-reviewed, and a study by 23andMe, a privately held genetic-analysis company, pointed to similar results.

But even still, Silverstein urged people to take these findings with a grain of salt.

This study, along with other studies from China and from 23andMe all suggest, but do not prove, a statistical association between non-O blood type with either risk of infection with the COVID-19 virus, or with risk of developing severe disease if infected.

But the studies, he said, should prompt more rigorous clinical studies as well as basic science studies to probe the mechanisms by which ABO blood type and or ABO genes might influence coronavirus ability to infect cells or the bodys immune response to the virus.

Blood type and genetics may determine your odds of contracting the coronavirus, study finds - MarketWatch

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PrecisionLife Identifies 68 Genes Associated With High Risk of Severe COVID-19, Suggesting Opportunities for Genomic Biomarkers and New Treatment…

Prior to an effective and widely available vaccine, PrecisionLife's insights may help to identify patients who are at greatest risk of developing the most severe forms of COVID-19. They can inform the development of biomarker driven tests, targeted shielding and new therapeutic strategies, with the aim of identifying high-risk people, reducing disease burden and improving survival rates.

Established Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) approaches have been limited by the heterogenous nature of COVID-19, making it difficult to clearly explain the wide range of symptoms and impacts of predisposing comorbidities associated with the disease. The study has overcome this barrier by evaluating combinations of genetic features, which is not possible with existing GWAS approaches.

Using a combinatorial (high-order epistasis) analysis approach, PrecisionLife identified 68 protein-coding genes that were highly associated with severe COVID-19, nine of which have been previously linked to differential response to SARS-CoV-2. These 68 genes include several druggable protein targets and pathways, nine of which are targeted by drugs that have reached at least Phase I clinical trials.

"This is our second study specifically looking at host genomics to identify those most at risk and find opportunities to treat patients with later stage severe disease where host immune processes begin to run out of control,"said Dr Steve Gardner, CEO of PrecisionLife.

"We know that systemic remodelling, leaky vasculature and micro-clotting can cause severe issues in COVID-19 patients in lungs as well as other organs. We are encouraged that several of the genes identified relate to lipid programming, beta-catenin and protein kinase C signalling whose processes converge in a central pathway involved in plasma membrane repair, clotting and wound healing. This pathway is largely driven by calcium ion activation, which is a known serum biomarker associated with severe COVID-19 and ARDS. We intend to perform further analyses to investigate this hypothesis. We are also seeking to further validate 12 genes associated with dysfunctional immune response that are the first hint at a potential genetic signature for enhanced risk of flipping into a severe disease state."

Full release can be accessed HERE.

For more information, please see, or email

Follow us on Twitter @precisionlifeAI and on LinkedIn.

About PrecisionLife

PrecisionLife Ltd was founded in 2015, built on a shared vision to bring a new level of analytical capability to computational biology, genomic medicine and healthcare. Its powerful data analytics platform is built on a unique mathematical framework and over 30 years' experience in delivering new technologies and products to enable the discovery of richer and more useful links between patients, disease, targets and drugs.

Headquartered in the UK, PrecisionLife also has operations in the US, Denmark and Poland.

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PrecisionLife Identifies 68 Genes Associated With High Risk of Severe COVID-19, Suggesting Opportunities for Genomic Biomarkers and New Treatment...

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UBC faculty of medicine researchers receive nearly $14M in federal funding for COVID-19 research – UBC Faculty of Medicine

Researchers at UBCs faculty of medicine have received a combined total of $13.8 million in grants in the latest round of funding from the federal government in support of research aimed at addressing the health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In total, 19 teams at UBC working in drug research, global health, obstetrics, medical imaging, public health, and Indigenous health are receiving support as part of a $109-million investment in research projects by the federal government, focused on accelerating the development, testing, and implementation of measures to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its negative consequences on people, communities, and health systems. Among the 19 UBC projects, 17 are being led by researchers from the faculty of medicine.

This new federal investment will enable UBC researchers to further contribute valuable insights into medical and societal responses to COVID-19, said Gail Murphy, vice-president, research and innovation at UBC. These research projects, which range from developing treatments to addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable and marginalized populations, could have national and global impacts, and we are grateful for this support.

The UBC-led projects being supported by this funding range from the creation of an integrated rapid-response network for emergency departments across Canada and the development of genetic libraries, to research into the dual health emergencies of overdose and COVID-19 and studies into the long-term effects of COVID-19 on brain health.

The Government of Canada is providing the funding for this research through CIHR and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), in partnership with Alberta Innovates (AI), Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), Research Manitoba (RM), Research Nova Scotia (RNS), Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF), and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF).

Research findings and data produced as a result of the funding will be shared rapidly and openly (in line with the joint statement on sharing research data and findings relevant to the novel coronavirus outbreak) to inform the global public health response and to help save lives.

Below is a list of the UBC faculty of medicine projects receiving funding:

An international consortium of researchers led by Dr. Artem Cherkasov, professor in the department of urologic sciences and senior scientist at the Vancouver Prostate Centre and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, and Dr. Franois Jean, associate professor in UBCs faculty of science department microbiology and immunology, is receiving $2.1 million from CIHR to use artificial intelligence to search for SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors among known drugs. They will work to identify antiviral drugs that can work synergistically with antiviral therapy remdesivir to boost its effectiveness and block SARS-CoV-2, similar to the drug cocktails used in treating HIV and hepatitis C infections. This research will be performed at UBC FINDER, one of the largest university-based containment level 3 facilities in the world, founded by Dr. Jean.

Dr. Pieter Cullis, a professor in the faculty of medicine at UBC and researcher at Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, is receiving $237,445 from CIHR towards developing an antibody therapy for COVID-19. The study will use lipid nanoparticles to carry genetic instructions for the antibody to the liver, resulting in the secretion of antibodies that target the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Dr. Cullis predicts that this therapy, which could protect healthcare workers from infection and treat patients infected with the virus, would be a candidate for clinical testing within one year.

A team led by Dr. Soren Gantt, associate professor and head of the division of infectious diseases in the department of pediatrics at the UBC, is receiving $450,635 from CIHR to study and track the household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Africa. His team will examine patterns of SARS-CoV-2 transmission among children and adults in an established cohort of >200 households in Nairobi, Kenya, to garner insight into the global COVID-19 pandemic, and guide public health interventions in resource-limited settings.

Dr. Kurt Haas, professor in the department of cellular and physiological sciences at UBC, is receiving $172,414 from CIHR to examine how different genetic variants of the human ACE2 protein interact with the spike protein on the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2. Researchers in the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health will create genetic libraries of ACE2 variants, and test how the SARS-CoV-2 binds to them, which is how it infects host cells. Results may identify genetic contributions to disease expression, and this library will be available to test emerging drug therapies and aid efforts to develop novel therapeutics.

Dr. Corinne Hohl, associate professor in the department of emergency medicine and scientist at the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, is receiving $2.5 million from CIHR to develop national standardized data collection, assessment and treatment protocols for COVID-19 in emergency departments. The ED Network will harmonize data collection across Canada and develop, evaluate and implement clinical decision rules for COVID-19 patients in emergency departments. The project is also receiving $250,000 from Genome BC and $75,000 from the BC Academic Health Sciences Network.

A team led by Dr. Rodney Knight, assistant professor in the department of medicine, is receiving $187,064 from CIHR to examine how public health measures, such as social distancing, affect the longer-term social and health of youth under 30. Researchers in Canada and France will use a range of research methods to document how policy and program responses can be optimized the improve the lives of youth in both countries.

Dr. Michael Law, director of the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research and professor in the School of Population and Public Health, is receiving $341,941 from CIHR to co-lead a study aimed at reducing the impact of COVID-19 in resource-poor countries. Working with Partners In Health, the researchers will use health information systems to monitor for potential COVID-19 hotspots and monitor changes in health services use in Haiti, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mexico, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. This data will be used to help inform national public health responses to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, professor in the department of physical therapy at UBC and researcher at the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, is receiving $722,703 from CIHR to investigate the possible impact of COVID-19 on cognition and the brain post-infection. To achieve this, she will be measuring both cognitive function and acquire brain scans from Canadians aged 55 to 80 years, enrolled in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Researchers will compare the cognitive function, brain structure, and brain function of adults with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 with those who are symptom-free or who have tested negative.

A team led by Dr. Deborah Money, professor in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology, is receiving $825,367 from CIHR for CANCOVID-Preg, a surveillance study into maternal and infant outcomes among pregnant women with COVID-19. The nation-wide research will be conducted by teams working in provinces and territories across Canada, and will allow Canada to develop urgently needed, evidence-based recommendations for maternity and pediatric care providers, as well as pregnant women and their families. Researchers will also contribute data to international collaborations, allowing for more comprehensive global understanding of COVID-19 in pregnancy.

Dr. Alice Mui, associate professor in the departments of surgery and biochemistry and molecular biology and researcher at the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, is receiving $150,072 from CIHR to investigate why some patients with COVID-19 experience a surge of inflammatory proteins, called a cytokine storm, that can contribute to the development of acute respiratory distress. Her team will investigate whether the SARS-Co-V2 virus blocks the function of an anti-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin-10 in the body. Her team will also assess whether a compound they have developed can mimic the action of this cytokine and reduce inflammation in patients infected with the COVID-19 virus.

A team led by Dr. Josef Penninger, professor in UBCs faculty of medicine, director of the Life Sciences Institute and the Canada 150 Research Chair in Functional Genetics at UBC, is receiving $578,090 from CIHR to support Phase 2 trials of a promising antiviral therapy. The trials will involve using doses of human recombinant soluble ACE2 (hrsACE2) as a decoy for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which enters human cells by attaching to the ACE2 receptor protein. This treatment could also protect organs including lung, heart, blood vessels and kidney from injury due to high doses of antiviral therapies such as remdesivir and chloroquine.

Dr. James Russell, professor in the UBC department of medicine, is receiving $3.5 million from CIHR for a multi-site randomized controlled trial (RCT) to study the safety and effectiveness of using losartan, a drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure and diabetes, to lower COVID-19 mortality. Losartan is in a class of drug known as an ARBs, which have been shown to reduce viral load and lung injury in influenza pneumonia.

A team led by Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite, senior scientist with the BC Centre for Disease Control and an adjunct professor in the School of Population and Public Health, is receiving $777,439 from CIHR and $75,000 from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. The researchers will assess the impact of the new risk-mitigation guidance that permits prescribing of pharmaceutical alternatives to the toxic drug supply. Researchers will determine the effects of the pandemic and risk mitigation measures on COVID-19 infection, continuity of care for treatment of substance use disorders and non-fatal and fatal overdose in BC. The researchers will also identify barriers and facilitators to implementation from the perspectives of people who use substances, prescribers, harm reduction workers, and other providers and community members.

The team is led by principal investigators at UBC, the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) at the University of Victoria (Dr. Bernie Pauly and Dr. Karen Urbanoski) and Simon Fraser University (Dr. Bohdan Nosyk and Dr. Natt Hongdilokkul). The team includes co-investigators and collaborators from the First Nations Health Authority, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, BC Centre on Substance Use, the BCCDC-based Compassion Inclusion and Engagement (CIE) (PEEP) peer network, Provincial Health Services Authority, BC-Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors and Public Health Agency of Canada.

A team of Indigenous and allied researchers governed by the Cedar Project Partnership and led by Dr. Patricia Spittal, professor in the UBC School of Population and Public Health, is receiving $549,258 from CIHR for a year-long study into the impacts of COVID-19 among Indigenous people who use drugs. Researchers will also roll out and test a bundle of virtual supports using an existing technology platform to mitigate and manage the impacts of COVID-19 on this population. The study will run as part of the Cedar Project, which, since 2003, has examined connections between impacts of colonization and intergenerational trauma on HIV and hepatitis C virus among young Indigenous people who use drugs in Vancouver and Prince George. The Cedar Project is one of the only research studies that continued operating during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, and will draw on its existing trust-based relationships with over 800 Indigenous people in both cities.

A team led by Dr. Natalie Strynadka, professor of biochemistry in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology, is receiving $403,065 from CIHR to lead research in the development of antiviral treatments for COVID-19 using molecular structure-based drug design. Working with professor Mark Paetzel at Simon Fraser University, professor David Baker at University of Washington and a long-time U.S. pharmaceutical partner, these researchers will assess and design drugs that inhibit processing enzymes active during viral reproduction, an approach that has been successfully used to develop antiviral treatments for HIV and other global viral infections.

Dr. Teresa Tsang, cardiologist, director of the VGH and UBC Echo Lab and professor of medicine at UBC, is receiving $260,326 from CIHR to lead a multi-centre study that will use ultrasound imaging and Big Data to enhance the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnosis and patient prognostication. Researchers will use point-of-care heart-lung ultrasound imaging in addition to nasal swab testing, and collaborate with UBC engineering professor Purang Abolmaesumi to develop AI methods that will enhance the sensitivity of COVID-19 detection.

A team led by Dr. Annalee Yassi, Canada Research Chair in Global Health and Capacity-Building in UBCs School of Population and Public Health, is receiving $410,256 from IDRC. Her team will work with collaborating organizations in Vancouver, B.C. and Guateng, South Africa to analyze what works to protect healthcare workers in Canada and South Africa from COVID-19. They will also draw on survey research on the protection of healthcare workers in other countries to help inform international policy and practice on protecting healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19.

A version of this story originally appeared on UBC News.

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UBC faculty of medicine researchers receive nearly $14M in federal funding for COVID-19 research - UBC Faculty of Medicine

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Insights on the CRISPR Global Industry to 2028 – Featuring Applied Stemcell, Caribou Biosciences & Cellectis Among Others – GlobeNewswire

Dublin, June 25, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The "Global CRISPR Market 2019-2028" report has been added to's offering.

The global CRISPR market is estimated to expand at a CAGR of 23.95% over the forecasting period 2019-2028.

The increasing lifestyle-oriented diseases, the rising prevalence of genetic diseases and the growing application of drugs are the primary factors driving the growth of the CRISPR market. In addition, the increasing geriatric population and the rising incidence of genetic ailments are also likely to lead to an increase in demand for global CRISPR technology. However, ethical issues associated with the technology and the changing regulatory environment is restraining the market. The market is also challenged by the availability of alternate technologies and the lack of awareness regarding CRISPR. But, the advancements in the gene-based therapy application and the increased demand for CRISPR will create market opportunities.

The global market report covers the countries from North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and Africa.

Asia-Pacific is likely to be the fastest-growing for the CRISPR market in the world. With the rapidly advancing technological developments and the wide range of applications of CRISPR technology in countries like India and China, regional growth is expected in the next few years. China has already started various gene-editing research work focusing on the CRISPR technology market.

The major companies in the CRISPR market are Horizon Discovery Ltd, Integrated DNA Technologies Inc, Caribou Biosciences Inc, Precision Biosciences, Lonza, Addgene, Origene Technologies Inc, Genedata AG, Intellia Therapeutics Inc, Cellectis, Applied StemCell, Transposagen Bio (Hera BioLabs), GeneCopoeia Inc, Sigma-Aldrich (Merck KGaA), DiaCarta, Editas Medicine, New England Biolabs, Sangamo Therapeutics, GenScript, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc and CRISPR Therapeutics.

Applied StemCell is a company that aims at stem cell and gene-editing in the field of biotechnology and the biomedical sector. It offers its services in different fields for drug discovery, basic research study, bioproduction and bioprocessing. The company is working on various projects that will combine TARGATT and CRISPR/Cas9 technology. The company is headquartered in California, the US, and has a global presence with business operations in various countries, including Australia, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey.

Key Topics Covered:

1. Global CRISPR Market - Summary

2. Industry Outlook2.1. Market Definition2.2. Porter's Five Forces Model2.2.1. Threat of New Entrants2.2.2. Threat of Substitute Products2.2.3. Bargaining Power of Buyers2.2.4. Bargaining Power of Suppliers2.2.5. Competitive Rivalry2.3. Regulatory Outlook2.4. Value Chain Outlook2.5. Supply Chain Outlook2.6. Timeline of Global CRISPR Market2.7. Parent Market Outlook2.8. Key Insight2.9. Market Attractiveness Index2.10. Market Drivers2.10.1. Growing Lifestyle-Oriented Diseases2.10.2. Surging Prevalence of Genetic Diseases2.10.3. Increasing Application of Drugs2.10.4. Rising Aging Population2.10.5. Incidence of Genetic Ailments2.11. Market Restraints2.11.1. Ethical and Social Issues Associated With CRISPR Technology2.11.2. Changing Regulatory Environment2.12. Market Opportunities2.12.1. Increased Demand for CRISPR 2.12.2. Advancements in the Applications of Gene-Based Therapy2.13. Market Challenges2.13.1. Alternative Technologies2.13.2. Lack of Awareness Regarding the Technology

3. CRISPR Market Outlook - By Product3.1. Plasmids3.2. Vectors3.3. Proteins3.3.1. Cas 93.3.2. Cpf13.3.3. Other Proteins3.4. Design Tools3.5. Grna3.6. Control Kits3.7. Library3.8. Other Products

4. CRISPR Market Outlook - By Application4.1. Genome Editing/Genetic Engineering4.1.1. Genetically Modified Organisms4.1.2. Agricultural Biotechnology4.1.3. Other Genome Editing/Genetic Engineering4.2. Grna Database/Gene Library4.3. CRISPR Plasmid4.4. Human Stem Cells4.5. Cell Line Engineering

5. CRISPR Market Outlook - By End-User5.1. Therapeutics and Drug Discovery5.2. Biological Research5.3. Agricultural Biotech5.4. Industrial Biotech

6. CRISPR Market - Regional Outlook6.1. North America6.1.1. Market By Product6.1.2. Market By Application6.1.3. Market By End-User6.1.4. Country Outlook6.1.4.1. the United States6.1.4.2. Canada6.2. Europe6.2.1. Market By Product6.2.2. Market By Application6.2.3. Market By End-User6.2.4. Country Outlook6.2.4.1. the United Kingdom6.2.4.2. France6.2.4.3. Germany6.2.4.4. Spain6.2.4.5. Italy6.2.4.6. Russia6.2.4.7. Rest of Europe6.3. Asia-Pacific6.3.1. Market By Product6.3.2. Market By Application6.3.3. Market By End-User6.3.4. Country Outlook6.3.4.1. India6.3.4.2. China6.3.4.3. Japan6.3.4.4. South Korea6.3.4.5. Australia & New Zealand6.3.4.6. Asean Countries6.3.4.7. Rest of Asia-Pacific6.4. Latin America6.4.1. Market By Product6.4.2. Market By Application6.4.3. Market By End-User6.4.4. Country Outlook6.4.4.1. Brazil6.4.4.2. Mexico6.4.4.3. Rest of Latin America6.5. Middle East and Africa6.5.1. Market By Product6.5.2. Market By Application6.5.3. Market By End-User6.5.4. Country Outlook6.5.4.1. Saudi Arabia6.5.4.2. Turkey6.5.4.3. United Arab Emirates6.5.4.4. South Africa6.5.4.5. Rest of Middle East & Africa

7. Company Profile7.1. Addgene7.2. Applied Stemcell 7.3. Caribou Biosciences Inc7.4. Cellectis7.5. CRISPR Therapeutics 7.6. Diacarta 7.7. Editas Medicine7.8. Genecopoeia Inc7.9. Genedata Ag7.10. Genscript7.11. Horizon Discovery Ltd7.12. Integrated Dna Technologies Inc7.13. Intellia Therapeutics Inc7.14. Lonza 7.15. New England Biolabs 7.16. Origene Technologies Inc7.17. Precision Biosciences7.18. Sangamo Therapeutics7.19. Sigma-Aldrich (Merck Kgaa)7.20. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc7.21. Transposagen Bio (Hera Biolabs)

8. Research Methodology & Scope8.1. Research Scope & Deliverables8.1.1. Objectives of Study8.1.2. Scope of Study8.2. Sources of Data8.2.1. Primary Data Sources8.2.2. Secondary Data Sources8.3. Research Methodology8.3.1. Evaluation of Proposed Market8.3.2. Identification of Data Sources8.3.3. Assessment of Market Determinants8.3.4. Data Collection8.3.5. Data Validation & Analysis

For more information about this report visit

Research and Markets also offers Custom Research services providing focused, comprehensive and tailored research.

Insights on the CRISPR Global Industry to 2028 - Featuring Applied Stemcell, Caribou Biosciences & Cellectis Among Others - GlobeNewswire

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Study: Blood type, genetics may factor in severity of COVID-19 symptoms – WOWT

(CNN) - Whether a person gets a severe form of COVID-19 could depend on blood type and their DNA, according to a new study conducted by a team of European scientists.

Their findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, could help explain why some people get seriously ill with the virus while most barely show any symptoms at all.

The researchers found people with type A blood are at a higher risk of contracting the virus and getting extremely sick from it, while people with type O blood have a lower risk.

The researchers can't say if your blood type is the main reason you may be more or less susceptible to the virus, but they detected genetic variations common in the sickest patients and those could just happen to be linked to a person's blood type.

The variations could be associated with a person's immune response.

An overwhelming overreaction of the immune system is blamed for the deadliest effects of the coronavirus in many patients.

The difference in risk between blood types is small. Researchers say the findings are more useful for designing drugs or vaccines against coronavirus.

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Study: Blood type, genetics may factor in severity of COVID-19 symptoms - WOWT

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Genes and Blood Type Determine Risk of COVID-19 Severity – HospiMedica

Image: Prof. Dr. David Ellinghaus and Frauke Degenhardt, both first authors of the study (Photo courtesy of UKSH Kiel)

The world's first large-scale genome-wide study conducted by scientists at the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH Kiel, Germany) and the Kiel University (CAU Kiel, Germany), in cooperation with a research group from Norway, has found gene variants that significantly influence the course of the disease-one of them concerns the gene for the blood group trait. This suggests that different blood groups may be responsible for why some people become severely ill with COVID-19 while others show hardly any symptoms.

Doctors from several hospitals of the corona epicenters in Northern Italy and Spain, sent blood samples of a total of 1,980 intensive care COVID-19 patients who had to be treated with oxygen or connected to a ventilator. For the control group, 2,205 randomly selected women and men from the population of these countries were obtained. Within only three weeks, DNA was isolated from the blood samples and 8.5 million positions of the genetic material from each individual were measured with so-called biochips (SNP arrays). The study showed that people with blood group A had an approximately 50% higher risk of severe COVID-19 progression than people with other blood groups. In contrast, people with type 0 blood groups were almost 50% better protected against serious COVID-19 disease. Thus, the study confirmed for the first time by means of a comprehensive genome-wide analysis two earlier studies by international researchers who had already described a possible correlation between blood group characteristics and the disease using the blood serum of COVID-19 patients.

In addition to the significant abnormality in the AB0 blood group locus, the gene locus by which the individual blood group is determined, the researchers found an even higher effect strength for a genetic variation on chromosome 3. Which of the several candidate genes located in this locus is responsible for this cannot be determined precisely at present, but the analysis was able to show that carriers of the gene are at a twofold higher risk of contracting severe COVID-19 than people who do not carry this variation. Among the Italian and Spanish patients who were so ill that they not only had to be supplied with oxygen but also connected to a ventilator, a particularly high number carried this genetic disposition. A result that was also evident in the distribution of blood groups: Among the particularly seriously ill, there were also a particularly large number of people with blood group A.

The results were very exciting and surprising for us. The region on chromosome 3 in particular had not previously been associated with COVID-19 by scientists. In other regions of the genome for which an effect on the disease had been suspected, no statistically significant differences were found between the healthy volunteers and the patients; neither in the chromosome section 6p21, which is associated with the immune system and many infectious diseases, nor in the gene IFITM3, which is associated with influenza, said Prof. Dr. Andre Franke, Director of the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology (IKMB) and member of the steering committee of the cluster of excellence "Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation" (PMI). With chromosome 3 and the AB0 blood group locus we describe real causes for a severe course of COVID-19. Our results, therefore, create an excellent basis for the development of active substances that can target the candidate genes found. It has been proven that a clinical study in which a drug is tested has twice as much success if genetic evidence for the target is already available. The results could also contribute to an improved risk assessment for a severe course of COVID-19 in patients.

Related Links:University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH)UKSH Kiel

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