Blood clotting key discovered9th June 2009
Researchers have found a molecular mechanism that explains the clotting of blood.
The results could have implications for people with blood clotting disorders.
Too much blood clotting can herald a condition known as thrombosis, which is sometimes fatal.
If a person's blood clots too infrequently, they can die from excessive bleeding.
The body uses specific molecules as messages about blood clotting, to maintain that balance.
Researchers identified one of these molecules during an examination of a protein involved in forming blood clots.
The protein under study, known as the von Willebrand factor (VWF), is found deficient in several blood clotting diseases, including the one that carries its name.
The US-based research team identified an area on the VWF involved in regulating the size of the protein itself.
The protein's size is vital to its function as a regulator of bleeding and blood clotting.
Wesley Wong of Harvard University said that the human body has an incredible ability to heal from life's scrapes and bruises.
He said that a central aspect of this response to damage is the ability to bring bleeding to an end, a process known as haemostasis, a complex act of biological balance.
The researchers said that the work will help scientists to understand the body's own mechanisms for bleeding and clotting, and may provide treatment solutions for bleeding disorders.
David Lane of the Imperial College in London said that the size of the VWF protein is controlled by the unfolding of VWF by the flow of blood.
He said that this unfolding allows an enzyme to get into the protein and break it into smaller pieces, and that this research has shed light on how that process occurs.
He said that the researchers have added to the understanding of the biological mechanism of the section of VWF that is unfolded and broken down.
Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation said that the finding helps us understand how VWF works in controlling the amount we bleed after injury, while preventing blood clots forming in the wrong place.
He said that the discovery should aid the creation of more effective medicines for people with diseases such as von Willebrand's Disease and Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP).
Lane said that the finding helps scientists to understand the interplay between molecular structure of VWF, blood flow and common diseases, because it locates these important sites in relation to faults in the protein.
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