Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic generated worldwide concerns about human health. While many subjects infected with SARS-CoV-2 manifest mild or flu-like symptoms, severe cases require hospitalization and intensive care and sometimes result fatally. Since death cases are associated with thrombotic events, we investigate the flow of red blood cells using our artificial capillary model that imitates human physiological blood flow. With this innovative approach, we show strong morphological impairment and flow property deviations of the red blood cells of COVID-19 patients. Thanks to the high precision in automated single-cell detection, we perform a detailed flow analysis and discover that such changes are reversible and occur through a cross-talk between red blood cells and blood plasma. By additional analyses involving sophisticated high-throughput technologies, we identify a new role of red blood cells in maintaining blood plasma equilibria (homeostasis), an important discovery that opens new therapeutical perspectives in infectious diseases based on the combination of known technologies with our microfluidic imaging method that is at the basis of our instrument, Erysense.
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