Top Awards

ISEF Finalist and UA Scholarship, Roche Diagnostics Best of Cellular & Microbiological Sciences Award

Grand Award

1st Place

Rare Immune Cells Significantly Associated with Severe COVID-19 Cases

Cellular and Molecular Biology
Karah Mayer

Dr. Grazyna Zreda

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, has resulted in millions of deaths. Rare immune cells are minor cell types with reduced frequency, and their function in COVID-19 patients is poorly understood. My research uses RStudio to investigate if there are more rare immune cells in individuals with severe COVID-19 compared to healthy individuals, and to observe what rare cell names are associated with severe COVID-19. Single-cell RNA sequencing data was provided, and R was used to organize the data, find the number of rare cell types, and to generate comparative figures. CellKb was used to search the rare cell type names from the marker genes. Rare immune cell types were statistically significantly higher in individuals with severe COVID-19 (p value = 0.01536), suggesting that patients with severe COVID-19 have an overwhelming and unbalanced immune response. Of the seven rare immune cell types, five of them were not matched with a name from the cell database. The two rare cell types that were matched with names (Activated_Granulocyte_1 and 2) were neutrophil cells, which previous research suggests may be related to respiratory failure in COVID-19 patients. The marker genes of these rare granulocyte cells were overexpressed compared to the major cell type, consistent with previous literature that suggests that these marker genes could be heavily involved in the pathophysiological response to severe COVID-19. This research suggests that marker genes of these rare cell subtypes could be used as an indicator of whether someone with COVID-19 may develop a serious case. |

Project presentation

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Lab journal excerpts

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Research paper

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2 thoughts on “Rare Immune Cells Significantly Associated with Severe COVID-19 Cases

  1. I am a COVID researcher and Immunologist at UA. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on an awesome project! It is zero percent likely that at this stage in my career I will ever understand R or be able to mine data sets in this way. I am grateful there are scientists coming up through the ranks who will be able to handle the breadth of the technology available. I am very impressed with the entirety of your project. Great work!

  2. This project is very interesting, especially since it is so topical with the pandemic. I think it’s really cool how you use Single Cell RNA Sequencing data to investigate immune cells that are correlated with COVID-19. I found your procedure very interesting, especially the code you used to investigate this in R. Great project! I definitely agree with your limitations in that it’d be cool to investigate this immune cell in a lab along with COVID-19.

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