An investigation of the Basque center CIC bioGUNE has revealed that the high accumulation of porphyrins and hematological alterations are relevant markers in the COVID-19, so correcting these values could alleviate some of the symptoms of the most severe patients.
Porphyrins are natural chemicals in the body that help form many important substances, one of which is hemoglobin., the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the blood.
The results of this research, published in the British Journal of Hematology, show that COVID-19 patients present an abnormal concentration of porphyrins in their serum, and help to understand the hematological alteration in cases of the disease, as reported this Thursday by the Basque research center.
Severely ill patients have an alteration in the blood, with accumulation of porphyrins, as a consequence of the disorder that is registered in the metabolism of the heme group and hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the blood from the respiratory organs to the tissues.
“The symptoms of COVID-19 were initially oriented to a pneumological disease. However, it has been seen that it is much more complex and that there is a series of very important hematological disorders”, Explained Óscar Millet, head of the Precision Medicine and Metabolism laboratory at CIC bioGUNE.
One of these alterations is the lack of oxygen, which is not perceived and is believed to be due to a hormonal problem. “Severe COVID-19 patients have a lack of oxygen in their blood, although they do not notice that it is difficult for them to breathe. The hard part is that infected people eventually drown ”, she stressed.
This symptom of lack of oxygen led this research group from the CIC bioGUNE to suggest that there could be a disorder in the metabolism of hemoglobin itself.
The finding, according to the research center, will help to better understand what can be done to improve symptoms in seriously ill patients affected by the coronavirus.
The body of COVID-19 patients, detecting that they lack hemoglobin, tries to produce more, which causes an accumulation. “Identifying this accumulation of porphyrin markers is one more sign of the disease, and correcting these values could alleviate some of the symptoms of the most serious patients”, highlighted Millet.
The research has been funded with a grant of more than 100,000 euros granted by the Department of Economic Development and Infrastructures of the Basque Government through the special call for research on COVID-19.
The work is part of the doctoral thesis of the researcher Itxaso San Juan, and Ganeko Bernardo, Maider Bizkarguenaga, Chiara Bruzzone, Nieves Embade and Óscar Millet himself have participated in the research, along with José María Mato, general director of the CIC bioGUNE.
To carry out the research, the team led by Óscar Millet, has used the serum of 300 seriously ill, symptomatic patients confirmed by a PCR test, from the Hospital Universitario de Cruces and the Hospital Universitario de Basurto.