Thrombosis affecting the pulmonary and systemic vasculature is common during severe COVID-19 and causes adverse outcomes. Although thrombosis likely results from inflammatory activation of vascular cells, the mediators of thrombosis remain unconfirmed.
In a cross-sectional cohort of 36 severe COVID-19 patients, it was shown that markedly increased plasma von Willebrand factor (VWF) levels were accompanied by a partial reduction in the VWF regulatory protease ADAMTS13. In all patients was found this VWF/ADAMTS13 imbalance to be associated with persistence of ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) VWF multimers that are highly thrombogenic in some disease settings.
Incubation of plasma samples from patients with severe COVID-19 with recombinant ADAMTS13 (rADAMTS13) substantially reduced the abnormally high VWF activity, reduced overall multimer size and depleted UHMW VWF multimers in a time and concentration dependent manner.
These data implicate disruption of normal VWF/ADAMTS13 homeostasis in the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 and indicate that this can be reversed ex vivo by correction of low plasma ADAMTS13 levels.
These findings suggest a potential therapeutic role for rADAMTS13 or human plasma in helping restore haemostatic balance in COVID-19 patients.