Jan 28, 2022

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The mechanism responsible for the creation of blood clots in COVID-19 patients that has led to widespread deaths among patients around the world has been discovered by doctors and scientists in Jerusalem. 

This first-ever discovery was made by the Hadassah University Medical Center’s Prof. Abdel-Raouf Hijazi, head of the clinical biochemistry department at Hadassah University Hospital and a Hebrew University researcher. “If we can prevent blood clots from forming before they are created, patients probably won’t need respirators or intensive care,” he declared. 

Hijazi, who has been studying pathological blood clots for more than 30 years, is head of the world’s leading research group in this field. 

Recent studies of COVID-19 in Israel and around the world have revealed that the deadly damage of the corona disease is caused by a combination of several serious pathological phenomena that damage vital systems in the body and cause them to collapse. One of the deadly phenomena is the production of multiple blood clots in the human body that affect more than 30% of corona patients. The resulting blood clots block blood vessels in the lungs, kidneys, heart and brain, slowing or even halting blood flow collapse of the systems one after the other, leading to death.

Hijazi has been researching the phenomenon of pathological blood clots for some 30 years and even heads the world’s leading group in the field. 

The researcher noted that in 2019, he and colleagues published in the journal Blood an article describing the presence of a protein found mostly in white blood cells that triggers blood clots and prevent their decomposition. Called alpha defensin, the protein is considered a natural antibiotic and kills the bacteria that enter the white blood cells. Their activity is part of our immune system. 

When studies on the effects and vulnerability of the new coronavirus in humans were published worldwide, clots were described in many patients around the world. After the Helsinki Committee on Human Medical Experimentation approved the team’s application for clinical trials, the Hadassah/Hebrew University researchers started to conduct medical examinations of patients. In recent weeks, blood samples were taken from corona patients who had been admitted to the Jerusalem hospital. 

Hijazi reported that we found that their blood contained very high concentrations of alpha defensin, which was linked to a dramatic increase in blood clot formation.

According to the study, the protein promotes the production of blood clots that can result in pulmonary embolism, heart attacks and stroke. “Blood clots are the first reason patients need intensive care and have to be attached to respirators. In fact, about a third of corona patients develop these fatal blood clots,” he said. “As the patient’s condition deteriorates, we see a higher concentration of the protein in their blood.” 

Seriously ill corona patients need respiratory disease because of respiratory failure, which involves damage to small, sacs in the lungs called alveoli that are responsible for transferring oxygen from the air into the blood. There are billions of such sacs in the lungs; once they become filled with fluids, oxygen cannot reach the tissues and organs of the body. 

In corona patients, clots form in the blood vessels around these sacs and make it difficult for them to breathe. If we are able to prevent blood clots from forming, the patients will probably not need to be ventilated or be taken to intensive care units, Hijazi suggested.

A recent published study found that the virus also causes a very disturbing and worrisome phenomenon among younger corona patients aged 30 to 40, sometimes even without its symptoms, but suffer a stroke. This occurs, said Hijazi, because of the alpha defensin proteins that create blood clots and eventually interfere with the transfer of oxygen to the rest of the body.

The team have been conducting research about an existing drug that has successfully undergone animal testing and is currently awaiting the necessary permits to be used in seriously ill corona patients. “We have found another disease that also has a significant increase in those alpha-defensins in the blood and can be treated by an inexpensive and effective drug,” said Hijazi. “Now, we want to see if it can be effective in corona patients as well. Let’s hope we use it for treating both those in serious condition and attached to respirators in intensive care units and those with mild-to-moderate deterioration,” he concluded.

Hadassah Hospital has also recently launched a Biblical song contest for healing.