Human Platelet Creation to be Attempted

Platelets could aid chemotherapy patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Inherited bleeding and clotting disorders are not well understood. Scientists hope that a study to create human platelet cells, which could aid chemotherapy patients in need of platelet transfusions, will provide insight into platelet function.

This marks the first time the creation of platelet cells, important to halting excessive bleeding, from stem cells has been attempted. It could provide key information about blood clot disorders, including clots that lead to heart attack and stroke.

"Talk to your doctor about treatments for blood clots."

Dr. Lewis Becker, a lead researcher and a professor of medicine and cardiologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said investigators would work to develop a new approach for generating blood cells for those desperately in need of chronic infusions.

The research is funded by a 5-year $9 million National Institutes of Health grant, part of a nationwide initiative to evaluate how genetic variations cause heart, lung and blood diseases.

John Hopkins University investigators hope to understand how genes regulate the function of platelets, which are sticky cells in blood that help stop excessive bleeding.

A key part of their research will be examining how genetic variations play a role in responsiveness to blood thinners designed to prevent clotting such as aspirin. Such treatment is not always successful in those with certain genetic variations.

But perhaps a more interesting component of the study will be developing the ability to create a large number of blood platelets from a single donor's blood sample. This would allow patients to be transfused with their own platelets with no risk of rejection. A common instance in which a patient would need a platelet transfusion is after chemotherapy when their platelets are wiped out.

During the research, investigators will take blood samples from 400 adult study participants, mostly from a group that participated in another genetic platelet study. Those in that group have family members with early heart disease. The white blood cells will then be transformed into pluripotent stem cells, which are capable of being transformed into any type of human tissue.

Those cells will then be converted into megakaryocytes, a type of cell that is very small in number and produces platelets inside bone marrow.

Dr. Susan B. Shurin, acting director of the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said that understanding cellular and tissue biology will allow for the development and test of new therapies and prevention methods.

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Review Date: 
August 4, 2011
Last Updated:
August 7, 2011