The present study revealed that a) the endothelial glycocalyx is injured during hemodialysis; b) endothelial glycocalyx injury is attenuated by administering nafamostat mesylate as an anticoagulant; and c) endothelial glycocalyx injury is aggravated by an increase in the amount of body fluid removed and prolonged dialysis time.
The endothelial glycocalyx is injured in patients with chronic kidney disease and by plasma volume expansion27. Therefore, we hypothesized that the serum syndecan-1 levels would increase in patients who undergo hemodialysis. A previous study indicated that the concentration of serum syndecan-1 was approximately 20 ng/mL in healthy people19; in contrast, in the present study, it was 124.6 ± 107.8 ng/mL in patients who underwent hemodialysis. This result confirmed that the endothelial glycocalyx sustained injuries in patients who undergo hemodialysis.
Endothelial glycocalyx injury may be attenuated by a decrease in fluid volume after hemodialysis. However, the levels of serum syndecan-1 increased after hemodialysis than those before hemodialysis. This finding suggests that the endothelial glycocalyx is injured during hemodialysis due to neutrophils and inflammation via the production of free radicals and cytokines.
During hemodialysis, unfractionated heparin, low-molecular-weight heparin, and nafamostat mesylate were used as anticoagulating agents. Low-molecular-weight heparin and nafamostat were administered in patients that had any disease which was associated with bleeding tendencies. The results of the present study suggest that an increase in the concentration of syndecan-1 is attenuated in patients who receive nafamostat mesylate.
Nafamostat mesylate, a synthetic serine protease inhibitor, is a short-acting anticoagulant28, and is also used during hemodialysis to prevent proteolysis of fibrinogen into fibrin29. It is a slow, tight-binding substrate that traps the target protein in the acyl-enzyme intermediate form, and inhibits enzyme activity30,31. Nafamostat has been recently identified as a potential therapy against COVID-1932. Infection with SARS-CoV-2 induces endotheliitis due to viral involvement and inflammatory response of the host, and thus, it is associated with endothelial glycocalyx injury21. Therefore, nafamostat mesylate may have a beneficial effect on the endothelial glycocalyx, although it is supported by only circumstantial evidence.
Extension of dialysis time is a strategy to improve prognosis33; however, it remains controversial33,34. The present study identified that changes in the levels of serum syndecan-1 are small in patients who have prolonged dialysis time and slow removal of body fluid. Therefore, these two strategies could prevent endothelial glycocalyx injury. Several reports have also revealed that prolonged hemodialysis was associated with improved blood pressure and fluid management35–37. Additionally, rapid removal of body fluid is associated with a greater risk of mortality and cardiovascular events38. Moreover, hypotension during hemodialysis is also associated with higher mortality39.
These mechanisms may explain how lower ultrafiltration rates with prolonged hemodialysis and slow removal of body fluids may ameliorate endothelial vascular permeability via attenuation of endothelial glycocalyx injury. Therefore, we propose that slow removal of body fluids with prolonged hemodialysis can reduce hypotension during hemodialysis.
This study has some limitations. First, the hemodialysis time in most patients was less than 4 h. Therefore, an accurate examination of prolonged hemodialysis could not be performed. Second, less type of dialyzer was used in the present study. Although further studies are required, measuring the concentration of serum syndecan-1 may help in the assessment of endothelial injury under low blood flow (e.g., chronic hemodiafiltration), and of membrane compatibility by using a different type of dialyzer. Moreover, serum syndecan-1 is proposed to be a useful biomarker for daily monitoring of organ dysfunction, and may be an important risk factor for mortality in critically ill patients25.
In conclusion, the study presented a method for the quantitative assessment of endothelial glycocalyx injury by measuring the concentration of serum syndecan-1 during hemodialysis. Although hemodialysis causes endothelial glycocalyx injury, it may be mitigated by maintenance of hemodialysis duration and by modulation of the amount of body fluid removed via the quantitative assessment of the serum syndecan-1.