The genetic factors that determine a patient’s risk for developing the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) remain understudied. In this issue of the JCI, Reilly and colleagues analyzed data from three cohorts of critically ill patients and observed an association between the ABO allele A1 and the onset of moderate-severe ARDS. This association was most notable in patients with non-pulmonary sepsis (an indirect, vasculature-targeted mechanism of lung injury) and persisted in patients who lacked epithelial expression of the A antigen, suggesting an endothelial mechanism of A1-associated ARDS susceptibility. Critically ill patients with blood type A had increased circulating concentrations of endothelium-derived glycoproteins such as von Willebrand factor and soluble thrombomodulin, and marginal lungs from blood type A donors were less likely to recover function during ex vivo perfusion. These findings implicate A antigen glycosylation of endothelial cells as a critical, genetically determined risk factor for indirect lung injury that may contribute to the mechanistic heterogeneity of ARDS.
Alicia N. Rizzo, Eric P. Schmidt