Tracking Immune Response to COVID-19

A scientist associated with HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology and colleagues from China have reported finding a means to track an individual’s immune response to COVID-19, which has potential to help develop treatments.

“For emerging viruses with no vaccine, our only defense is our immune system,” the team noted in reporting findings.

Jian Han, a faculty member at HudsonAlpha and founder of iRepertoire, teamed on the study with Ling Chen and Nanshan Zhong of the National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease in China.

Zhong was one of the doctors who first diagnosed SARS and helped treat and control the disease. Han earned a Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award for his work on SARS.

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“This study provides an unprecedented level of insight into the immune cells of 23 COVID-19 patients over three different stages of the disease,” the team said of their work, which was published in September in Frontiers of Immunology. “In order for our immune system to fight off a new infectious disease, it first has to learn to recognize it. That recognition is coordinated by a family of proteins called receptors that live on the surface of T cells and B cells.”

The scientists studied how B and T cells react, tying those changes to improvements in the patients’ status.

“The next step is to isolate individual B cells that are exhibiting chain switching in order to identify the antibodies produced by patients who recover from infection,” said Han. “We are continuing this work at iRepertoire by performing network analysis on the B-cell data from these patients and identifying responding clones. We are also participating in a local study to use our single cell sequencing technology on samples from infected patients by directly identifying Sars-Cov-2-specific B-cells. Both methods can reveal the identity of neutralizing antibodies of therapeutic value.”

IRepertoire was founded at HudsonAlpha in 2009 and was the first company to develop and commercialize immune repertoire sequencing and products.

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