Biobank Graz

Your voluntary donation of tissue, blood and other body fluids is tremendously important for the promotion of research and makes a significant contribution to the education of doctors. Today the scientific examination of these specimens in connection with symptoms of disease is one of the most important requirements for a better understanding of the causes and progression of disease and consequently the development of new preventative measures, diagnostic procedures and treatment methods based on this understanding.

Biobank Unterstuetzung

With your support

  • causes of disease can be investigated
  • preventative measures can be found so that people do not become ill
  • disease can be detected and cured earlier
  • treatment methods can be improved

Your participation is

  • not associated with any further examinations
  • risk-free
  • free of charge

COVID-19 Convalescent Cohort

Between April 2020 and February 2021 COVID-19 convalescents were included into the COVID-19 Convalescent Cohort. During the initial visit and four follow-up visits, which took place 1, 2, 5 and 12 months after the initial visit, participants donated blood, saliva, tear fluid, serum, plasma, buffy coat and an oral or nasal swab. Data on symptom characteristics, clinical history, lifestyle and pre-history were collected via a questionnaire. Samples of the COVID-19 Convalescent Cohort are used in the research projects described below.

Current Research Projects and Publications

Immune response after a mild course of SARS-CoV-2 infection

  • The first publication describes the data from 326 participants (61.7% female) that were tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and had a mild course of COVID-19 without hospitalization. A large number of the participants (66.9%) still had symptoms like fatigue, dysgeusia, ageusia, headache, shortness of breath etc. 38 days (median) after infection. Our results indicate a strong and persistent immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection in individuals who recovered from a mild course of COVID-19 for up to 8 months post infection. Furthermore we could indicate, that  participants, who suffered from typical symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste and ageusia or comorbidities, show higher antibody levels after infection than participants who suffered from milder symptomatic or had no comorbidities.
  • Publication: https://www.journalofinfection.com/article/S0163-4453(21)00419-9/fulltext
  • Project leaders: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Robert Krause, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine; Univ.-Prof. DI Dr. Andrea Berghold, Institute for Medical Informatics, Statistics and Documentation; Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dr. Peter Schlenke, ; Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ivo Steinmetz, Diagnostic and Research Institute of Hygiene, Microbiology and Environmental Medicine; Univ.-Prof. Dr. Markus Herrmann, Clinical Institute of Medical and Chemical Laboratory Diagnostics

Antibody response in the saliva of COVID-19 convalescents

  • Our understanding of the human immune response to infections is of great importance in diagnostics and the development of new therapies. With novel pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 in particular, it is essential to characterize the immune response in order to gain additional insight. Over the course of this study, the antibody response of the participants is analyzed in both their blood and their saliva using the most modern techniques. Through the additional analysis of saliva, we learn whether and to what extent antibodies that provide protection are found in this body fluid. The goal of our investigations is to improve therapy and diagnostics. Our investigations also help to monitor the efficacy of vaccines.
  • Project leader: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ivo Steinmetz, Diagnostic and Research Institute of Hygiene, Microbiology and Environmental Medicine

Phenotyping of SARS-CoV-2 infections with nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

  • In this project, the metabolic effects of a SARS-CoV-2 infection on human biological fluids are characterized using metabolic phenotyping with nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). The goal is to identify and validate a metabolic biomarker for the progression of COVID-19 in order to better predict the risk for disease progression. It is planned to extend the investigations in connection with the coronavirus vaccine.
  • Project leader: Assoz.-Prof. Priv.-Doz. Mag. Dr. Tobias Madl, Gottfried Schatz Research Center for Cell Signaling, Metabolism and Aging, Division of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Potential influence of ABO isoagglutinins on infection with SARS-COV-2 and COVID-19

  • The results of our previous study "Assoziation von ABH(O) und Lewis Blutgruppen Antigenen und COVID-19" (Association of ABH(0) and Lewis blood group antigens with COVID-19) revealed that people with blood group O have a lower probability of being hospitalized with COVID-19 in comparison with people with ABO types A, B or AB. People with blood group AB had to be hospitalized significantly more often. One important difference between blood groups O and AB is the presence of ABO isoagglutinins. This study investigates a potential influence of ABO isoagglutinins in serum and saliva on infection with SARS-CoV-2. Using flow cytometry analysis, anti-A and anti-B isoagglutinins are detected in serum and saliva samples from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. In addition, the dynamics of these isoagglutinin values between two different points in time after the illness are investigated and compared with results from blood donors who were not ill.
  • Project leaders: Dr.in Eva-Maria Matzhold, Ao.Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Thomas Wagner, MA, Department of Blood Group Serology and Transfusion Medicine

Testing of substances to inhibit the binding of SARS-CoV-2 to cells

  • Various chemical or biological substances such as antibodies that are produced after infection with SARS-CoV-2 or vaccinations can inhibit the infection of cells by SARS-CoV-2. In order to characterize the activity spectrum of new possibly active substances, drugs or vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 it is necessary to compare the effect of these substances with natural antibodies in the sera of patients who have suffered from COVID-19.
  • Project leader: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Kurt Zatloukal, Diagnostic & Research Institute of Pathology

Poor concordance between different SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests

  • Numerous SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests are now available. Although the individual methods are designed very differently, in everyday life people often only speak of "COVID antibodies" or the "COVID antibody test". This study compared six commonly used laboratory tests to determine antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The used study collective comprised 954 blood samples taken from 315 participants of the “COVID-19 Convalescent Cohort”. The tests showed serious differences and sometimes even contradictory results.
  • Publication: https://meridian.allenpress.com/aplm/article/146/5/538/477161/Longitudinal-Comparison-of-Automated-SARS-CoV-2
  • Project leader: Univ. Prof. Dr. Markus Herrmann, Clinical Institute of Medical and Chemical Laboratory Diagnostics

COVID-19 Vaccination Cohorts

At the Medical University of Graz, several COVID-19 Vaccination Cohorts were built up with support of Biobank Graz. The aim is to study the immune response of patients with a weakened immune system (The CoVVac Study) or if individuals, who suffer from diabetes type 1 or type 2, show a reduced immune response (COVAC-DM Study). The respective departments perform patient´s recruitment. Healthy control groups are recruited through the Department of Blood Group Serology and Transfusion Medicine as well as the Biobank. The design of these studies is described in the Collection and Cohort Profiles.

Below you find information on research projects and publications that are conducted using samples from the vaccination cohorts. 

Current Research Projects and Publications

Humoral immune response to COVID-19 vaccination in diabetes: The prospective COVAC-DM cohort study

  • In this study we investigated the immune response in people with diabetes following a COVID-19 vaccination. We demonstrated that the anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels were comparable in healthy controls and in participants with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, irrespective of the type of diabetes and glycaemic control. We observed age and renal function to be significantly correlated with the antibody levels. Research projects investigating cellular immune response are currently ongoing.
  • Publication: https://dom-pubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dom.14643
  • Project leader: Univ.-Prof. Priv.-Doz. Dr. Harald Sourij, MBA, Klinische Abteilung für Endokrinologie und Diabetologie, Trials Unit für Interdisziplinäre Metabolische Medizin

B Cells as predictors of humoral (antibody-building) immune response to COVID-19 mRNA vaccination in immunocompromised patients

  • Individuals, who have a weakened immune system due to a disease or medical treatment, are at higher risk to become severely ill when having COVID-19. Studies showed that these patients have also a poor response to vaccination. This study investigated the immune response after COVID-19 mRNA vaccinations. Results of 120 individuals with weakened immune system were compared with 79 individuals from a healthy control group. It was shown, that the concentration or the presence of B-cell subtypes, especially the naïve B cells prior to the first vaccination has a significant correlation with the measured immune response 21 days after the second vaccination. (Naïve B cells are B cells that have not had contact with an extraneous structure yet.) Furthermore, the data show that the interval between the last B cell depleting therapies (removal of B cells e.g. treatment B cell lymphoma) and the COVID-19 vaccination should be at least 4 months to allow a sufficient antibody response. In future, the amount of naïve B cells could be a predictor for antibody production and the success of a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Publication: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2021.803742/full
  • Project leader: Assoz. Prof. Priv.-Doz. Dr. Martin Stradner, Klinische Abteilung für Rheumatologie und Immunologie

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