Heparan sulfate mimetic fucoidan restores the endothelial glycocalyx

Heparan sulfate mimetic fucoidan restores the endothelial glycocalyx and protects against dysfunction induced by serum of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit

ERJ Open Res.


Accumulating evidence proves that endothelial dysfunction is involved in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) progression. We previously demonstrated that the endothelial surface glycocalyx has a critical role in maintenance of vascular integrity. Here, we hypothesised that serum factors of severe COVID-19 patients affect the glycocalyx and result in endothelial dysfunction. We included blood samples of 32 COVID-19 hospitalised patients at the Leiden University Medical Center, of which 26 were hospitalised in an intensive care unit (ICU) and six on a non-ICU hospital floor; 18 of the samples were obtained from convalescent patients 6 weeks after hospital discharge, and 12 from age-matched healthy donors (control) during the first period of the outbreak. First, we determined endothelial (angiopoietin 2 (ANG2)) and glycocalyx degradation (soluble thrombomodulin (sTM) and syndecan-1 (sSDC1)) markers in plasma. In the plasma of COVID-19 patients, circulating ANG2 and sTM were elevated in patients in the ICU. Primary lung microvascular endothelial cell (HPMEC) and human glomerular microvascular endothelial cell (GEnC) cultured in the presence of these sera led to endothelial cell glycocalyx degradation, barrier disruption, inflammation and increased coagulation on the endothelial surface, significantly different compared to healthy control and non-ICU patient sera. These changes could all be restored in the presence of fucoidan. In conclusion, our data highlight the link between endothelial glycocalyx degradation, barrier failure and induction of a procoagulant surface in COVID-19 patients in ICU which could be targeted earlier in disease by the presence of heparan sulfate mimetics.