WWTF-COVID 19 Rapid Response

Detailed characterization of the cellular immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection

Project Coordinators: Priv.-Doz. Dr. René Geyeregger (PhD) & Dr. Wolfgang Paster (PhD), Children´s Cancer Research Institute/Clinical Cell Biology and FACS Core Unit

Project Partners:
National cooperation partners:
Prof. Christoph Steininger, Clinical Division of Infection and Tropical Medicine, MedUniWien, Vienna.
Dr. Christof Jungbauer , Red Cross Blood Donor Center Wien/NÖ/Bgl, Vienna
Dr. Volker Witt, St. Anna Kinderspital, Vienna
Dr. Florian Halbritter,  Integrative Analysis, CCRI, Vienna
International cooperation partner:
Prof. Dr. Hedda Wardemann, Division of B cell immunity, DKFZ Heidelberg, Germany

Project Abstract:
SARS-CoV-2 (CoV-2), a novel coronavirus, has now spread to 180 countries. Based on the limited data available, adaptive immune responses during incubation and non-severe phases of infection are potentially decisive for progression and severity. Lymphopenia and cytokine release syndrome are clinical features in severe cases (Huang et al. Lancet 2020) and CD8+ T cells and NK cells display functional exhaustion in such patients (Zheng et al. Cell Mol Imm 2020). Further immune dysregulation has been described with an increase in naïve helper T cells and a decrease in memory helper T cells (Qin et al, Clin Infect Dis 2020). None of these early reports offers immunophenotyping data on specific cellular immune responses.

The aim of the proposed project is to (i) generate deep immune cell maps from patients during and after CoV-2 infections with a focus on ii) detection of CoV-2-specific T-cells, iii) identification of CoV-2-specific T cell receptors (TCRs) iv) single cell transcriptomics as well as v) cellular biobanking of patient samples for subsequent projects. This immunological fingerprint will enable a precise and individualized monitoring of CoV-2 patients with the aim to identify potential protective immune cells involved in repelling and immunopathology of this virus, to identify TCR clonotypes (maybe shared by multiple individuals) for future vaccination strategies or cellular therapies.

Funded by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund under the COVID 19 Rapid Response Call
Duration: 2020 – 2021
Link: https://www.wwtf.at/covid/index.php?lang=EN&ID=9824#O9824