Industry News: University of Paris researchers utilize Fluidigm mass cytometry for COVID-19 patients

Study suggests that type I IFN deficiency in the blood could help define a high-risk population

20 May 2020

Fluidigm Corporation, an innovative biotechnology tools provider with a vision to improve life through comprehensive health insight, has announced that researchers at the University of Paris have utilized mass cytometry to identify profound changes in the immune systems of critically ill COVID-19 patients. The findings may help define a population of COVID-19 patients at high risk for becoming critically ill, and they suggest a possible benefit from anti-inflammatory therapies.

The study, available online through medRxiv and pending peer review, utilized the Fluidigm® Maxpar® Direct™ Immune Profiling Assay™ and Maxpar Pathsetter™ analysis software. The assay offers a fixed panel of 30 standard markers of immune activity, to which the researchers added two exploratory markers. Analyses of multiple markers revealed changes in the populations of different types of immune cells, and most important, to their antiviral response in 50 patients with varying disease severity.

“The immunological features and molecular mechanisms involved in COVID-19 are as yet not well-understood, and we urgently need a deeper understanding across the different stages of the disease,” said Dr. Benjamin Terrier, MD, PhD, Department of Internal Medicine, National Referral Center for Rare Systemic Autoimmune Diseases, Public Assistance Hospitals of Paris-Center, University of Paris. “A means to identify groups at high risk for severe COVID-19 could provide valuable insights into effective approaches to treatment.”

All patients were tested 8 to 12 days following the onset of symptoms and in the absence of anti-inflammatory therapy. In-depth profiling of immune cell populations and their respective functions using mass cytometry, gene expression studies and evaluation of the levels of proteins secreted by the cells found that profound impairment of type I interferon (IFN) activity was unique to critically ill patients. This suggests that type I IFN deficiency is a hallmark of severe COVID-19 and that these patients could benefit from anti-inflammatory therapies targeting IL-6 or TNF-a inflammatory cytokines.

“A rapidly emerging body of data demonstrates the value of mass cytometry and our Maxpar Direct Immune Profiling Assay in studies that provide critical and potentially actionable insights for approaches to COVID-19 therapy,” said Chris Linthwaite, President and CEO of Fluidigm. “Accurate and meaningful assessments of diverse biomarkers that have diagnostic, prognostic or therapeutic value are essential in addressing the unique and urgent challenges of this global health crisis.

“Speed is equally critical,” Linthwaite said. “The team at University of Paris, using our standardized, pre-designed and optimized kit, was able to go from experiment conception to pre-print publication in 25 days. We are committed to supporting researchers around the globe with tools and technologies to effectively respond to the global pandemic, both in state-of-the-art immune profiling of patients and in virus detection in populations.”

The online archive medRxiv was founded by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a not-for-profit research and educational institution, Yale University, and BMJ, a global health care knowledge provider. It provides a platform for researchers to share their work and comment and receive feedback on it prior to journal publication.

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