Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Coming Unstuck

Detergent-treated 'decoy' platelets act to stop bleeds but with less danger of forming a life-threatening blood clot

17 March 2019

Coming Unstuck

Essential constituents of our blood, platelets reduce bleeding by clumping together, but their tendency to aggregate has a darker side: platelets can form dangerous blood clots, and facilitate the movement of cancerous cells in the bloodstream. Patients at high risk of blood clots are often prescribed anti-platelet medication, yet this leaves them vulnerable to severe bleeding in case of injury or surgery. Scientists are developing a solution based on modified platelets, stripped of many of their components by detergents. These platelet decoys (pictured, coloured pink) lose their ability to stick together, for example no longer becoming enmeshed in the presence of collagen fibres (in grey). Laboratory experiments suggest that treatment with these decoys reduces aggregation in the bloodstream, an effect that can rapidly be reversed by adding more real platelets. While still in early stages of testing, this quick and flexible action would represent a major improvement on existing therapies.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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