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Nature study demonstrates that bacterial clotting depends on clustering
Date:11/2/2008

Bacteria can directly cause human blood and plasma to clota process that was previously thought to have been lost during the course of vertebrate evolution, according to new research at the University of Chicago, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Institut Pasteur in Paris. Their findings will be published online Nov. 2 in Nature Chemical Biology.

The discovery will improve scientists' understanding of coagulation during bacterial infections and may lead to new clinical methods for treating serious medical conditions such as sepsis and anthrax.

It has long been known that blood often coagulates during sepsis or bacterial infections, but this has generally been regarded as a host's immune and inflammatory response. It also has been known that bacteria can activate factors that precede coagulation, but it had not previously been known that bacteria can pass the coagulation threshold and cause blood clots to form. Once they form, the clots can grow and propagate. Although this may help prevent the dissemination of the bacteria through the host, it often leads to serious vascular damage due to blocked and injured blood vessels.

The key to clot formation is the location of the bacteria, rather than the total number of bacteria or their level of concentration. In other words, for those bacteria that can activate coagulation factors, coagulation occurs only when a cluster of bacteria forms.

"Our research demonstrates that coagulation can be controlled by changing the spatial distribution, or clustering, of bacteria," said study co-author Christian Kastrup, Post-Doctoral Assistant at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Therefore, considering the location of bacterial cells, instead of just their presence or absence and their total numbers, could significantly change our understanding of coagulation."

Kastrup, who worked on this research as a graduate
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Contact: Greg Borzo
gregborzo@uchicago.edu
773-702-8366
University of Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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