A COVID19 infection has the potential to significantly change the size and stiffness of red and white blood cells, discovered a team of German scientists.
In some cases, the effects can last for months, which is a possible reason why some people complain of symptoms long after an infection (also called prolonged Covid).
During the Covid illness, the blood circulation is often impaired, dangerous vascular occlusions can occur and the oxygen transport is restricted. All of these are phenomena in which blood cells and their physical properties play a key role.
To investigate this, a team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (MPL), the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg and the German Center for Immunotherapy measured the mechanical states of red and white blood cells . “We were able to detect clear and long-lasting changes in cells both during an acute infection and afterwards,” reports Professor Jochen Guck, Managing Director of the MPL. The team published the results in the Biophysical Journal.
The team examined more than four million blood cells from 17 seriously ill patients with Covid19, from 14 recovered people and 24 healthy people as a comparison group using a self-developed method called real-time deformability cytometry (RTDC). .
In this method, researchers send blood cells through a narrow channel at high speed. The leukocytes and erythrocytes are stretched. A high-speed camera takes each of them through a microscope, and custom software determines what types of cells are present and how big and deformed they are.
They found that the size and malleability of red blood cells in patients with the disease differed greatly from those in healthy people.