FEB 11, 2016 3:22 PM PST

Treating TTP with Synthetic Antibodies

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Rare but deadly, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is a disease where blood clots block the smallest blood vessels often leading to kidney failure, stroke, and heart disease. Over 4 million Americans are affected each year, either from hereditary or acquired forms of the disease.
 
Past the acute phase, TTP is relatively easily defeated with immunotherapy, said Paul Knöbl from the Medical University of Vienna. However, 10 to 20 percent of people do not survive the acute phase, even with plasma exchange therapy. In a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Knöbl and other researchers from the Medical University of Vienna examined the capability of a synthesized antibody to reverse the impact of the disease.
 
Newly formed blood vessel within an occluded artery of the lower leg

 
TTP is characterized by a deficiency of an enzyme called ADAMST13 regardless of whether the disease was acquired or inherited. Without ADAMST13, another protein called von Willebrand is overexpressed and destructively so, binding platelets and inducing aggregation in blood vessels. Blood clots caused by TTP can lead to kidney failure, stroke, and heart disease.
 
Current plasma exchange therapy removes autoantibodies causing the ADAMST13 deficiency, removes overgrown von Willebrand protein complexes, and replenishes the body’s stock of ADAMST13. After a patient survives the acute phase, immunotherapy prevents continuous autoantibody formation. The synthesized antibody proposed by this study would be used for treatment both during and after the acute phase, instead targeting the masses of overactive von Willebrand protein. By blocking the protein’s interaction with platelets, the antibody reduces the severity of blood clots characterizing TTP to practically zero.
 
"In future this drug might also be used to treat similar diseases, which are jointly caused by overactivity of the von Willebrand factor, and therefore represents a new treatment option," said the Medical University of Vienna’s Bernd Jilma.
 
The antibody being studied is called “caplacizumab.”
 

Source: Medical University of Vienna, New England Journal of Medicine
 
About the Author
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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