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
JUN 18, 2019
Cardiology
JUN 18, 2019
New Noninvasive Method For Controlling Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation or Afib is a condition in which the heartbeat is irregular. Often the pulse is rapid in Afib patients as the heart attempts to maintain...
AUG 01, 2019
Cardiology
AUG 01, 2019
Preventing Sarcopenia In Older Adults
The loss of muscle mass associated with aging, called sarcopenia, begins at about age 30 and continues throughout an individual's lifespan. This muscle...
SEP 11, 2019
Cardiology
SEP 11, 2019
Better Sleep, Brought To You By Exercise
Regular difficulty falling or staying asleep, called chronic insomnia, is the most common sleep disorder among adults. In the search for better, more restf...
SEP 18, 2019
Cardiology
SEP 18, 2019
Clear, Flexible Vital Sign Wearable Monitors
Wearable health monitors are gaining in popularity, both for fitness tracking and for gathering more targeted health data relating to heart disease and oth...
JAN 29, 2020
Cardiology
JAN 29, 2020
Eating Eggs Everyday Not Linked to Heart Disease
The common controversy over whether eating eggs is bad for heart health may finally have been dissolved thanks to new findings by scientists at McMaster Un...
FEB 07, 2020
Cardiology
FEB 07, 2020
Eating Red and Processed Meats Increases Heart Disease Risk
Although the link between consuming processed meats and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is well established, studies focusing on the link...
Loading Comments...