October 27, 2010

A Mega Advancement In Treating Thrombocytopenia

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Platelets are cell fragments that circulate in the blood of mammals.  These big, regularly-shaped cells are chiefly involved in hemostasis, a central factor leading to the formation of blood clots.  If the number of platelets is too low, excessive bleeding can occur (thrombocytopenia).  However, if the number of platelets is too high, blood clots can form (thrombosis).

Mortimer Poncz and colleagues, at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, working with mice, have identified a potential new approach to platelet replacement therapy that circumvents the problem of donor shortage.

The megakaryocyte is a bone marrow cell responsible for the production of blood thrombocytes (platelets), which are necessary for normal blood clotting.  Poncz and colleagues found that mature megakaryocytes that were infused into mice could generate platelets of normal size and function.  Accordingly, they are optimistic that it is achievable to treat individuals with thrombocytopenia through mature megakaryocyte infusion, although they estimate that 109 mature megakaryocytes might be needed for an average 70-kg patient.

Andrew Leavitt, at the University of California, San Francisco, notes in an accompanying commentary, that this might be a low estimate.  He furthermore discuses why the new data generated by Poncz and colleagues is an imperative step forward in identifying novel approaches to platelet replacement therapy.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Investigation, 25 October 2010