Docampo has since found virtually identical pyrophosphate-containing pouches in numerous prokaryotic organisms, challenging the theory on the origin of eukaryotic organelles and suggesting a targeted approach to killing many disease-causing organisms.
"Because I saw electron microscopy pictures of the blood platelets' dense granules taken many years ago that were almost identical to the pictures we took of the acidocalcisomes of different protozoa," Docampos said, "I thought it would be a good idea to test if they were similar in other aspects. When we found that polyphosphate was released from platelets upon stimulation, I immediately thought about a potential role in coagulation."
In collaboration with Morrissey, an expert on blood clotting, Docampo and a team of U. of I. graduate and postdoctoral students tested the effect of adding polyphosphate to platelet-poor plasma in a series of in-vitro experiments to see if it enhanced blood clotting. The results were dramatic, Morrissey said, adding that the presence of polyphosphate may help explain how platelets accelerate the process of blood clotting.
Polyphosphate is in every living organism, but scientists thought it to be a molecular fossil conserved from prebiotic time. "This is something that has mainly been studied in bacteria," Docampo said. "There is almost no data on polyphosphates in vertebrates, including humans. No role was seen for them, so there was little interest in studying them."
The Center for Hemostasis Research at Illinois will carry the new discovery further. Morrissey and Illinois colleagues Stephen Sligar, a professor of biochemistry, and Lawrence B. Schook, a professor of animal sciences, will lead a variety of experiments. Among them, they will test the use of polyphosphate as an additive to topical agents as well as new nanotechnologies in an animal model to develop effective
Source:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign