Monday, July 06, 2020

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey researcher examines biomarkers for understanding severity of COVID symptoms.

(Courtesy of Rutgers Health) Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers across Rutgers University have played an important role in understanding the virus and exploring potential treatments for those diagnosed. An important question remains: Why do some people get extreme respiratory and cardiovascular distress, while others have no symptoms at all? A new study led by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey seeks to answer this question by checking how different versions of immune-vital genes screened for transplant matching may shape who gets or resists COVID-19. The study will be conducted in collaboration with the Gift of Life Marrow Registry, who have typed the HLA and other such genes of participants, and Root, a scientific company that helps interpret genetic variation.

The Gift of Life Marrow Registry is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, that facilitates bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood-related diseases. In the study, more than 350,000 potential bone marrow donors in the registry will be invited to take the survey on whether they have had COVID-19 and if so, what symptoms and treatments they got.

“The study aims to learn whether HLA and other genes help explain why some people avoid COVID-19, while others get particular symptoms or need particular treatments,” said the study’s principal investigator, Jeffrey Rosenfeld, PhD, manager of the Biomedical Informatics Shared Resource at Rutgers Cancer Institute and assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “We’re excited to add key data to the fight against COVID-19, to help clinicians better understand how our human immune systems respond to the virus.” Gift of Life CEO Jay Feinberg added, “We have a responsibility to do our part to help the world understand and ultimately overcome this virus. Gift of Life is pleased to be collaborating with Rutgers and Dr. Rosenfeld on this very important study.”And Root’s founder, geneticist Nathaniel Pearson, noted that “Because transplant registries read tissue match genes better than consumer DNA tests do, only a study like this can clearly check how such immune-vital genes may shape COVID-19. Gift of Life’s members have long helped save cancer patients—and now they show how everyday people can help the world beat a pandemic too.”

For qualified and willing participants, follow-up surveys will be administered for up to one year. The researchers will study how big groups of participants get or avoid COVID-19 itself, get particular symptoms, or benefit from particular treatments, over that time. This data will be analyzed to find any associations of tissue match genes with such outcomes.