If you’ve ever been in need of a blood thinner, or you’re an avid reader of the Science Market Update, you’re probably familiar with the drug warfarin. Warfarin is an anticoagulant, which means it decreases the clotting ability of the blood in order to fight blood clots. However, it’s known to cause adverse effects if taken in the wrong amounts. In one of our September articles, we talked about research underway at the University of Illinois at Chicago that focused on prescribing the proper dosage of the drug. Meanwhile, just a few cities over, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are working on an alternate drug to warfarin.
There’s no question about the importance of addressing erratic blood clotting. While clotting is a natural process, sometimes clots can entirely block up an artery or vein, damaging the tissues around it. When this prevents blood from reaching parts of the body, the patient is said to have arterial thrombotic disease, since the arteries bring blood from the heart to the body. Similarly, if blood is prevented from reaching the heart from the body, it’s called venous thrombotic disease, according to the UIUC Carle Cancer Center. Both forms of thrombosis are serious and can lead to stroke and even death: conditions caused by thrombosis take 60,000 to 100,000 lives annually.
One of the problems with warfarin is that by lessening the blood’s ability to clot, it can lead to excessive bleeding upon even a minor injury. What the Urbana-Champaign researchers have found is a compound that is not essential to the normal clotting process but does activate erratic clotting. The team, led by University of Illinois biochemistry professor James H. Morrissey, focused their research on inhibiting that compound, polyphosphate. The idea is that inhibiting polyphosphate would prevent thrombosis without causing the bleeding problems of traditional “blood thinners”, like warfarin.
(Morrissey, top right, and his team of UIUC researchers, courtesy of UIUC)
The team was able to find many molecules able to accomplish this task. Since polyphosphate is a negatively charged molecule, several positively charged molecules were able to bind to the polyphosphate, keeping it from initiating blood clotting. These compounds were added to human blood to verify that the polyphosphate was successfully stopped. In a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign article, Morrissey remarks:
“What this shows is that you could put really potent inhibitors of polyphosphate in and interrupt the clotting system by decreasing thrombotic risk, but probably not increasing bleeding risk…This is the proof of principle that it works.”
The next step, of course, is to ascertain which of these compounds are the best candidates for use in drugs. If and when these drugs reach the market, we’ll have Morrissey and the UIUC to thank. To learn more about the University of Illinois, financially speaking, have a look at our UIUC funding report here:
Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will be hosting two of its on-campus trade shows at the University of Illinois in 2013: first at our Urbana-Champaign BioResearch Product Faire™ on May 1st, 2013 and then at the Chicago BioResearch Product Faire™ the next day, May 2nd, 2013. BCI has been bringing top-notch life science trade shows to research universities nationwide for 20 years now. To reserve your spot at one of these Illinois events, please click the button below- or see our 2013 schedule of events to find a show near you.