A team of Japanese researchers has identified a protein that can predict severe cases of COVID-19, potentially helping to determine the severity of a patient’s symptoms.

Scientists from the University of Chiba said they discovered the protein, called myosin light chain 9 (Myl9) – increased in volume in blood vessels in patients with more severe signs of the novel coronavirus. Myl9 is one of the components that make up blood platelets.

The research was conducted primarily by a team led by Kiyoshi Hirahara, a professor of immunology at the university’s graduate school.

“If a simple kit could be developed to measure the concentration of Myl9, the severity of patients’ condition could be predicted,” Hirahara said at a press conference Aug. 1. “That would help determine which patients to hospitalize first.”

The results were published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the official journal of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Creating a therapeutic agent that contains an antibody against Myl9 could help doctors prevent symptoms from getting worse,” Hirahara said.

Hirahara and his colleagues looked at inflammation around the lung blood vessels of individuals whose deaths were due to COVID-19.

The researchers then found that the virus damaged blood vessels, leading the Myl9 that makes up platelets to swarm around blood clots generated in the process.

Analyzing blood samples from 123 patients hospitalized at 11 medical centers, including Chiba University Hospital, scientists found that Myl9 levels were three to five times higher in people with moderate conditions than in people with moderate conditions. mild cases.

It was multiplied by 10 in patients who died of the virus.

According to the team, patients who had higher Myl9 levels when admitted to hospital ended up being hospitalized for longer periods of time.

Myl9 exists in the blood of healthy people, but in limited amounts.

According to the team, Myl9 levels in patients with COVID-19 increase more markedly than in those who have serious blood vessel problems, such as sepsis, and have had heart and other surgeries that have weighed down. heavily on their bodies.