ST. LOUIS In research led by a Saint Louis University investigator, molecular biologists have discovered a way to harness the enzyme thrombin's anti-blood clotting properties. The finding opens the door to new medications that will treat diseases related to thrombosis, the presence of blood clots in blood vessels, which is responsible for nearly a third of all deaths in the U.S.
"Thrombosis is one of the most prevalent causes of fatal disease," said lead researcher Enrico Di Cera, M.D., chair of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. "If we could develop an anti-thrombotic drug that didn't carry a risk of hemorrhage, it would revolutionize the treatment of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. and Western world.
"This research carries us closer to that goal."
Blood clotting has long ensured our survival, stopping blood loss after an injury. On the other hand, if triggered in the wrong conditions, clotting can lead to debilitating or fatal conditions like heart attack, stroke and deep vein thrombosis.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, and published in the June 18, 2010 edition of The Journal of Biological Chemistry (Vol. 285. No. 25), researchers zeroed in on thrombin, a vitamin K-dependent enzyme key to blood coagulation.
An unusual enzyme, thrombin performs distinct and even opposing functions, acting as a pro-coagulant, pro-thrombotic but also as an anti-coagulant factor depending on which target protein fibrinogen, PAR1 or protein C becomes activated in the blood. Researchers studied thrombin to decipher the structure-function code that enables this protein to do so many different things.
Tackling this problem far below the level of tissue and organs, molecular biologists looked deep inside the structure, examining thrombin's amino acids to note how they behave and interact with each other.
|Contact: Carrie Bebermeyer|
Saint Louis University