CyTOF Reveals Immune Disruption

Discovering a hallmark phenotype of COVID-19

Mass Cytometry Key in Coronavirus Science Publication

Impaired interferon response found in severe cases


As a specialist in the management of systemic autoximmune diseases, Benjamin Terrier, MD, PhD, regularly works with patient samples to learn how the activation state and proportions of immune cell subsets change with disease severity.

Terrier is Professor of Medicine in the Internal Medicine Department of Cochin Hospital in Paris. Given his in-depth understanding of how the immune system can react to various diseases, confirmation of the novel coronavirus in France prompted a shift in his focus toward the management of COVID-19 infections. Terrier and his team observed patients with progressive worsening of the disease from cytokine storm and questioned the mechanism involved in disease severity. They initiated an investigation of the immunological characteristics associated with disease deterioration consistently observed between 8 and 12 days from the onset of symptoms.

Because of the urgent need for more information about COVID-19 disease progression, the study covered a cross-sectional analysis of patients admitted due to disease worsening around day 10. And while comorbidities and potential autoimmune predispositions are known to correlate to worsening disease, the team specifically examined patients with no or very mild or controlled comorbidities so they could focus on the modifications provoked by the virus itself. A unique phenotype was identified, displaying impaired interferon type I response characterized by low interferon production and activity in severe and critically ill patients. The phenotype was also associated with a persistent blood virus load and an exacerbated inflammatory response.

Terrier collaborates with the Pitié-Salpêtrière Cytometry (CyPS) to apply mass cytometry and the Maxpar® Direct™ Immune Profiling Assay™ in his current studies, and now to COVID-19 immune profiling. “Analyzing the immune response of patients with mild-to-moderate disease, severe disease and critical disease by mass cytometry allows us to cover the innate and adaptive immune responses simultaneously. Not only could we analyze immune cells, but also cytokine production and the transcriptional signatures in these patients. Essentially, we could look at everything in the whole blood,” Terrier explains.

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