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      Vaccine-Induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT): Targeting Pathomechanisms with Bruton Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors

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          Abstract

          A series of cases with rare thromboembolic incidents including cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (some of them fatal) and concomitant thrombocytopenia occurring shortly after vaccination with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine AZD1222 (Vaxzevria) have caused significant concern and led to its temporary suspension in many countries. Immediate laboratory efforts in four of these patients have identified a tentative pathomechanism underlying this syndrome termed initially vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) and renamed recently vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). It encompasses the presence of platelet-activating antibodies to platelet factor-4/heparin complexes, possibly emulated by polyanionic constituents of AZD1222, and thus resembles heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT). Because these immune complexes bind and activate platelets via Fcγ receptor IIA (FcγRIIA), high-dose intravenous immunoglobulin G has been suggested for treatment of VITT in addition to non-heparin anticoagulants. Here we propose inhibitors of Bruton tyrosine kinase (Btk) approved for B cell malignancies (e.g., ibrutinib) as another therapeutic option in VITT, as they are expected to pleiotropically target multiple pathways downstream of FcγRIIA-mediated Btk activation, for example, as demonstrated for the effective inhibition of platelet aggregation, dense granule secretion, P-selectin expression and platelet-neutrophil aggregate formation stimulated by FcγRIIA cross-linking. Moreover, C-type lectin-like receptor CLEC-2- and GPIb-mediated platelet activation, the interactions and activation of monocytes and the release of neutrophil extracellular traps, as encountered in HIT, could be attenuated by Btk inhibitors. As a paradigm for emergency repurposing of approved drugs in COVID-19, off-label use of Btk inhibitors in a low-dose range not affecting haemostatic functions could thus be considered a sufficiently safe option to treat VITT.

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          COVID-19 and Thrombotic or Thromboembolic Disease: Implications for Prevention, Antithrombotic Therapy, and Follow-up

          Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a viral respiratory illness caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), may predispose patients to thrombotic disease, both in the venous and arterial circulations, due to excessive inflammation, platelet activation, endothelial dysfunction, and stasis. In addition, many patients receiving antithrombotic therapy for thrombotic disease may develop COVID-19, which can have implications for choice, dosing, and laboratory monitoring of antithrombotic therapy. Moreover, during a time with much focus on COVID-19, it is critical to consider how to optimize the available technology to care for patients without COVID-19 who have thrombotic disease. Herein, we review the current understanding of the pathogenesis, epidemiology, management and outcomes of patients with COVID-19 who develop venous or arterial thrombosis, and of those with preexisting thrombotic disease who develop COVID-19, or those who need prevention or care for their thrombotic disease during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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            SARS-CoV-2 binds platelet ACE2 to enhance thrombosis in COVID-19

            Background Critically ill patients diagnosed with COVID-19 may develop a pro-thrombotic state that places them at a dramatically increased lethal risk. Although platelet activation is critical for thrombosis and is responsible for the thrombotic events and cardiovascular complications, the role of platelets in the pathogenesis of COVID-19 remains unclear. Methods Using platelets from healthy volunteers, non-COVID-19 and COVID-19 patients, as well as wild-type and hACE2 transgenic mice, we evaluated the changes in platelet and coagulation parameters in COVID-19 patients. We investigated ACE2 expression and direct effect of SARS-CoV-2 virus on platelets by RT-PCR, flow cytometry, Western blot, immunofluorescence, and platelet functional studies in vitro, FeCl3-induced thrombus formation in vivo, and thrombus formation under flow conditions ex vivo. Results We demonstrated that COVID-19 patients present with increased mean platelet volume (MPV) and platelet hyperactivity, which correlated with a decrease in overall platelet count. Detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the blood stream was associated with platelet hyperactivity in critically ill patients. Platelets expressed ACE2, a host cell receptor for SARS-CoV-2, and TMPRSS2, a serine protease for Spike protein priming. SARS-CoV-2 and its Spike protein directly enhanced platelet activation such as platelet aggregation, PAC-1 binding, CD62P expression, α granule secretion, dense granule release, platelet spreading, and clot retraction in vitro, and thereby Spike protein enhanced thrombosis formation in wild-type mice transfused with hACE2 transgenic platelets, but this was not observed in animals transfused with wild-type platelets in vivo. Further, we provided evidence suggesting that the MAPK pathway, downstream of ACE2, mediates the potentiating role of SARS-CoV-2 on platelet activation, and that platelet ACE2 expression decreases following SARS-COV-2 stimulation. SARS-CoV-2 and its Spike protein directly stimulated platelets to facilitate the release of coagulation factors, the secretion of inflammatory factors, and the formation of leukocyte–platelet aggregates. Recombinant human ACE2 protein and anti-Spike monoclonal antibody could inhibit SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein-induced platelet activation. Conclusions Our findings uncovered a novel function of SARS-CoV-2 on platelet activation via binding of Spike to ACE2. SARS-CoV-2-induced platelet activation may participate in thrombus formation and inflammatory responses in COVID-19 patients.
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              The Emerging Threat of (Micro)Thrombosis in COVID-19 and Its Therapeutic Implications

              The recent emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the ensuing global pandemic has presented a health emergency of unprecedented magnitude. Recent clinical data has highlighted that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with a significant risk of thrombotic complications ranging from microvascular thrombosis, venous thromboembolic disease, and stroke. Importantly, thrombotic complications are markers of severe COVID-19 and are associated with multiorgan failure and increased mortality. The evidence to date supports the concept that the thrombotic manifestations of severe COVID-19 are due to the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to invade endothelial cells via ACE-2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2), which is expressed on the endothelial cell surface. However, in patients with COVID-19 the subsequent endothelial inflammation, complement activation, thrombin generation, platelet, and leukocyte recruitment, and the initiation of innate and adaptive immune responses culminate in immunothrombosis, ultimately causing (micro)thrombotic complications, such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke. Accordingly, the activation of coagulation (eg, as measured with plasma D-dimer) and thrombocytopenia have emerged as prognostic markers in COVID-19. Given thrombotic complications are central determinants of the high mortality rate in COVID-19, strategies to prevent thrombosis are of critical importance. Several antithrombotic drugs have been proposed as potential therapies to prevent COVID-19-associated thrombosis, including heparin, FXII inhibitors, fibrinolytic drugs, nafamostat, and dipyridamole, many of which also possess pleiotropic anti-inflammatory or antiviral effects. The growing awareness and mechanistic understanding of the prothrombotic state of COVID-19 patients are driving efforts to more stringent diagnostic screening for thrombotic complications and to the early institution of antithrombotic drugs, for both the prevention and therapy of thrombotic complications. The shifting paradigm of diagnostic and treatment strategies holds significant promise to reduce the burden of thrombotic complications and ultimately improve the prognosis for patients with COVID-19.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                (View ORCID Profile)
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                Journal
                Thrombosis and Haemostasis
                Thromb Haemost
                Georg Thieme Verlag KG
                0340-6245
                2567-689X
                April 13 2021
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Institute for Cardiovascular Prevention (IPEK), LMU Munich, Munich, Germany
                [2 ]DZHK (German Centre for Cardiovascular Research), partner site Munich Heart Alliance, Munich, Germany
                [3 ]Department of Biochemistry, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Netherlands
                [4 ]Munich Cluster for Systems Neurology (SyNergy), Munich, Germany
                Article
                10.1055/a-1481-3039
                33851389
                85a17c80-f0fc-47ea-b69a-b3fb11b603b4
                © 2021
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