January 25, 2009

Researchers Discover A New Way To Prevent Blood Clots

Researchers in the UK have discovered a potential way to prevent blood clots that can lead to heart attacks "” a discovery that could aid the development of better heart attack prevention and treatment.

Scientists from the University of Bristol said the key is to remove a particular protein called PKC alpha from specialist blood cells called platelets, which play a key role in the formation of clots.

The scientists said blood clots limit blood loss from a wound, but when they form in diseased arteries feeding the heart, they can be life threatening.

In the UK, blood clots cause heart attacks in 146,000 people every year, BBC News said.

Aspirin and other anti-clotting medicines can reduce heart attack risks, but can also cause excessive and dangerous bleeding for some people.

The researchers described platelets as small cells in the blood that sense when a blood vessel has been damaged. They rapidly become very sticky, and form a protective plaster over the site of damage.

Fatty plaques build up in the walls of the arteries feeding the heart in patients suffering from heart disease. The platelets clump together if an artery ruptures and can block the vessel at the site of damage, sometimes resulting in a heart attack.

"We have discovered that a protein called PKC alpha is a major controller of platelet stickiness - if you remove PKC alpha, the dangerous blood clots don't form," said lead researcher Professor Alastair Poole.

He said they have also found that absence of PKC alpha doesn't seem to impair the normal control of bleeding, unlike some current anti-clotting medicines.

"It is too early to put anti-PKC alpha drugs on the market but we are excited to have made a step in the right direction towards the development of a new family of potentially useful anti-clotting medicines for heart patients," he added.

Although there are some effective clot-busting and clot-preventing medicines at present, they can often be rather blunt instruments with serious side effects such as increased bleeding, according to Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research.

"Platelets are a major component of the clotting processes that cause heart attacks and strokes, and many scientists around the world are trying to decipher their inner workings, interactions, and controls toward the development of better, safer, drugs for heart patients."

The research was carried out in mice and the results appear in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


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