NOV 09, 2017 9:42 AM PST

Blood Clots: Good Vs. Bad

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Blood clots are normally seen as something to be avoided, something with dangerous consequences such as heart attack, stroke, or aneurysms. While blood clots are associated with certain diseases, clotting is also a necessary, life-supporting mechanism in the body that “plugs up holes” to prevent excessive bleeding, from a small cut to a large wound as a result of severe trauma.

Activated platelets with filopodia. Image credit: John Weisel, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

From the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania researchers are looking at the physical mechanisms of how a blood clot contacts, or makes the blood clot smaller. Using confocal light microscopy, scientists are visualizing blood clots all the way to the level of individual platelets.

"Under normal circumstances, blood clot contraction plays an important role in preventing bleeding by making a better seal, since the cells become tightly packed as the spaces between them are eliminated," explained study leader John W. Weisel, PhD. "In this study, we unwrapped and quantified clot contraction in single platelets."

When a blood clot is obstructive instead of constructive, blood flow is blocked and various diseases ensue. But with the findings from the new study, where scientists saw specialized platelet proteins causing clots to shrink in size, treatment options for diseases like ischemic stroke, deep vein thrombosis, and heart attacks could soon expand greatly.

Confocal light microscopy allowed scientists to observe in close detail the intertwining networks of fibrin fibers and blood platelets, revealing the small structural details of how platelets contract blood clots, making them smaller when necessary. Researchers saw a series of activity initiated by platelet extensions called filopodia, which attached to and pulled on fibrin fibers to move. This process is similar to those in muscle movements.

“Activated platelets bend and shorten individual fibrin fibers with their filopodia, which undergo sequential extension and retraction, as if pulling hand-over-hand on a rope," Weisel explained.

All in all, the present study provides scientists a better understanding of clot contraction, which means they can develop a better understanding of the mechanical differences between a “good” clot and a “bad” clot, I.E. those that prevent excessive bleeding versus those that lead to thrombosis-based disease.

Depending on whether a certain case needs more or less clot contraction, the new findings could contribute to new treatments for both ends of the blood clot spectrum.

The present study is published in the journal Nature of Communications.

Source: University of Pennsylvania School 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.
You May Also Like
MAR 18, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
"Hey Alexa, Are My Heart Rhythms Normal?"
MAR 18, 2021
"Hey Alexa, Are My Heart Rhythms Normal?"
Smart speakers—devices such as Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home—lend a helping hand around the house, ...
APR 06, 2021
Cardiology
In 2020, Deaths in the US Were Over 20% Higher Than Typical Years
APR 06, 2021
In 2020, Deaths in the US Were Over 20% Higher Than Typical Years
Researchers have begun to analyze the impact of the pandemic, and their work has shown that long COVID-19 surges in the ...
JUN 29, 2021
Cancer
Heart Failure Linked to Increased Cancer Risk
JUN 29, 2021
Heart Failure Linked to Increased Cancer Risk
A study by researchers in Germany suggests that patients with heart failure are more likely to develop cancer than those ...
JUL 27, 2021
Cardiology
Researchers Advise Those Considering Pregnancy to Check Heart Health
JUL 27, 2021
Researchers Advise Those Considering Pregnancy to Check Heart Health
Scientists have examined the associations between cardiovascular problems before a pregnancy and complications during la ...
AUG 05, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Wearable Patch Senses Blood Vessel Blockages
AUG 05, 2021
Wearable Patch Senses Blood Vessel Blockages
The cardiovascular system is like a network of highways, filled with an estimated 25 trillion red blood cells that conti ...
AUG 29, 2021
Cardiology
Bystanders Can Help Cardiac Arrest Victims Survive
AUG 29, 2021
Bystanders Can Help Cardiac Arrest Victims Survive
New research has indicated that if someone is having a heart attack, a swift response from anyone that might be nearby c ...
Loading Comments...