Authors: Buijsers B, Yanginlar C, de Nooijer A, Grondman I, Jonkman I, Rother N

PMID: 33123154 PMCID: PMC7573491 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.575047


Reports suggest a role of endothelial dysfunction and loss of endothelial barrier function in COVID-19. It is well established that the endothelial glycocalyx-degrading enzyme heparanase contributes to vascular leakage and inflammation. Low molecular weight heparins (LMWH) serve as an inhibitor of heparanase. We hypothesize that heparanase contributes to the pathogenesis of COVID-19, and that heparanase may be inhibited by LMWH. To test this hypothesis, heparanase activity and heparan sulfate levels were measured in plasma of healthy controls (n = 10) and COVID-19 patients (n = 48). Plasma heparanase activity and heparan sulfate levels were significantly elevated in COVID-19 patients. Heparanase activity was associated with disease severity including the need for intensive care, lactate dehydrogenase levels, and creatinine levels. Use of prophylactic LMWH in non-ICU patients was associated with a reduced heparanase activity. Since there is no other clinically applied heparanase inhibitor currently available, therapeutic treatment of COVID-19 patients with low molecular weight heparins should be explored.

Keywords: COVID-19; LMWH (low molecular weight heparin); glycocalyx damage; heparanase; inflammation; vascular leakage.

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