New family of lipids plays key role in clot formation

Researchers at Cardiff University have discovered a new family of lipids that plays a key role in controlling clot formation.

Cardiff University reports the new discovery could lead to novel ways of reducing the risk of excess clotting, called thrombosis, potentially preventing deaths from many killer diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and deep vein thrombosis.

Professor Valerie O’Donnell, Co-Director of Systems Immunity Research Institute at Cardiff University, and lead of the research said “While clot formation is an essential response to injury, the formation of unwanted clots is central to many major killer diseases. The most obvious are stroke or heart attack where a blood clot blocks a vessel and causes oxygen deprivation and organ damage, but subtle changes in blood clotting are involved in many inflammatory diseases too, such as sepsis, diabetes and even cancer.”

Peter Collins, Professor of Haematology at Cardiff University, said “With the discovery of new lipids that promote clot formation, we can find new ways to prevent unwanted clots being generated and even use these lipids to help reduce blood loss where excessive bleeding is a problem, such as hereditary bleeding disorders or bleeding during childbirth.”

The new lipids, formed by white cells and platelets in the blood, form a surface on cells helping a clot to develop more effectively. After discovering the lipids and making them in the lab, the researchers carried out several tests with them, including adding them to plasma to see if they could change clotting activity, and observing how they affected bleeding in mice. They found that mice that do not make these lipids bleed much more and are also protected against thrombosis. They also found that administering the lipids locally reduced bleeding.

The researchers will continue this work with an end goal of discovering how to target the new lipids to develop new therapies.

The new research is published in Science Signalling. Further information is contained in a related study, which was published earlier this year in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. It was led by colleagues at the University Hospital Erlangen, working with the Cardiff University group.

At Cardiff University, the studies were funded by the European Research Council, Wellcome and British Heart Foundation.

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