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Scientists Developing Anti-Clotting Drugs With Less Bleeding Risk

Update Date: Oct 30, 2013 04:43 PM EDT

The development of anti-clogging drugs with less risk of bleeding for patients, who have had a stroke, heart attack or blood clot in their veins, is in the works according to a new study. 

"Existing anti-clotting drugs significantly reduce the body's ability to form blood clots, so people on these drugs are at risk of serious bleeding," Xiaoping Du, professor of pharmacology in the UIC College of Medicine and lead author of the paper, said in a news release. "By exploiting this switch we found, we can develop very powerful drugs that prevent the big clots that cause heart attacks and strokes, while preserving the body's ability to form the smaller, primary clots you need to stop bleeding."

According to UIC, "Anti-clotting drugs, also known as blood thinners, can help prevent strokes, heart attacks, and deep vein clots." 

Blood thinners are also prescribed to reduce the risk of a blood clot forming after surgery. But these medications also come with a warning; if they are not used carefully they can cause excessive bleeding.  

"Du and colleagues investigated a protein called integrin, found in the cell membrane of platelets, the specialized blood cells that form clots to stop bleeding," reported UIC. "Signals given off by injured or torn blood vessels activate integrin, which directs the platelets to bind to the injured blood vessel and to other platelets through a linking-protein called fibrinogen."

According to researchers, when this happens it causes a primary clot to form which stops the bleeding in minor cuts.

Researchers found that when fibrinogen becomes part of the process another molecule named G-alpha-13 sticks onto integrin and makes the clot grow bigger to make sure the bleeding has stopped.

"Normally, the enlarged clot will shrink back," reported UIC. "But in people prone to developing dangerous clots, or in those with narrowed arteries, the enlarged clots can lead to a heart attack or stroke."

As researchers found that G-alpha-13 makes clots grow, they decided to create a molecule that blocks G-alpha-13 from sticking to integrin. They tested out the blocker-drug on mice and it successfully formed primary clots that stopped bleeding but didn't make the clot bigger.

"This is exciting, because new drugs based on blocking G-alpha-13 can preserve the ability to form primary clots, which are necessary to heal wounds, but will prevent the clots from growing too large and clogging blood vessels," Du said.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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