Accelerating discovery: A novel flow cytometric method for detecting fibrin(ogen) amyloid microclots using long COVID as a model

Simone Turner, Gert Jacobus Laubscher, M. Asad Khan, Douglas B. Kell, Etheresia Pretorius*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Long COVID has become a significant global health and economic burden, yet there are currently no established methods or diagnostic tools to identify which patients might benefit from specific treatments. One of the major pathophysiological factors contributing to Long COVID is the presence of hypercoagulability; this results in insoluble amyloid microclots that are resistant to fibrinolysis. Our previous research using fluorescence microscopy has demonstrated a significant amyloid microclot load in Long COVID patients. However, this approach lacked the elements of statistical robustness, objectivity, and rapid throughput. In the current study, we have used imaging flow cytometry for the first time to show a significantly increased concentration and size of these microclots. We identified notable variations in size and fluorescence between microclots in Long COVID and those of controls even using a 20× objective. By combining cell imaging and the high-event-rate and full-sample analysis nature of a conventional flow cytometer, imaging flow cytometry can eliminate erroneous results and increase accuracy in gating and analysis beyond what pure quantitative measurements from conventional flow cytometry can provide. Although imaging flow cytometry was used in our study, our results suggest that the signals indicating the presence of microclots should be easily detectable using a conventional flow cytometer. Flow cytometry is a more widely available technique than fluorescence microscopy and has been used in pathology laboratories for decades, rendering it a potentially more suitable and accessible method for detecting microclots in individuals suffering from Long COVID or conditions with similar pathology, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere19605
JournalHeliyon
Volume9
Issue number9
Number of pages12
ISSN2405-8440
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Long COVID
  • Amyloid microclots
  • Imaging flow cytometry
  • Fluorescence

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