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Procoagulant platelets

ANZAC Research Institute

  • Cardiovascular Clinician Scientist Grant
Organ System:
  • Cardiovascular
Date Funded:
  • 31 May, 2019
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Associate Professor Vivien Chen

Project summary

A novel target in cardiovascular disease to predict how likely you are to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

What is the issue for NSW?

The ultimate goal of our research is to be able to take a sample of your blood, predict how likely you are to suffer a heart attack or stroke, decide if you need a new medication to reduce your risk, then retest your blood to see if you responded to the treatment.

What does the research aim to do and how?

Our research focuses on understanding blood platelets, tiny cells that form clots to stop us bleeding. Platelets need to be able to activate, otherwise we would bleed to death, but when they are too active, or their activity occurs in the wrong place, you can suffer a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin, one of the main drugs that reduces death from heart attack, works by inhibiting platelet function. However, despite current best anti-platelet drugs, thousands of people continue to have heart attacks and strokes every day.

Our research has shown that not all platelets are the same, that different populations within our platelets have different roles. There is one particular sub-population that stimulates the circulating blood clotting proteins to make blood clots bigger and more stable.

Our research has found that these “procoagulant platelets” are made in excess in patients during heart attack or stroke, but they are less important in stopping bleeding. Until now, there was no easy way to measure these “procoagulant platelets”.

We developed a blood test that can measure how many procoagulant platelets you make when your blood is exposed to the stimuli that it would experience during heart attack or stroke. We further refined this into a test that measures the balance of an individual’s platelet sub-populations with the intention to give more information about your risk of heart attack and to determine whether you need extra treatment to reduce the risk.

We hope this will eventually become a diagnostic test available to people with coronary disease within in a routine diagnostic laboratory and have partnered with a company with experience making platelet function tests into test kits.

Procoagulant platelets are not affected by aspirin, so new drugs are needed. Our research also has a drug discovery arm using our novel assay and state-of-the-art drug discovery methods. We have found a potential drug that affects the interaction between the stimulant and the platelets, bringing the hyperactivity in coronary disease patients back to normal without affecting bleeding. Test-tube based experiments have been promising, and we are moving into the next phase of testing.