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Groundbreaking research shows platelets can reproduce in circulation
Date:1/26/2010

SALT LAKE CITY University of Utah researchers led an international team of scientists that is the first to report on the previously undescribed ability of platelets to reproduce themselves in the circulation. Their revolutionary findings were published online Jan. 19, 2010, in the journal Blood.

Platelets develop from precursor cells found in the bone marrow, a process that is called thrombopoiesis. During the final stages of thrombopoiesis, platelets are shed from the cytoplasm of their precursors and then enter the bloodstream. Because they lack nuclei, circulating platelets are often referred to as "cytoplasts."

Because DNA resides in the nucleus, platelets were previously considered incapable of reproducing themselves. However, according to this new study led by Hansjrg Schwertz, M.D., and Andrew S. Weyrich, Ph.D., both of the U of U School of Medicine, platelets are actually capable of giving rise to new platelets.

"Cells with nuclei typically split into two uniform daughter cells that share identical genetic information," says Schwertz, research assistant professor of surgery and lead author of the study. "In our experiments, we found that platelets increase in number by generating beaded extensions that resemble a pearl necklace. Development of these extensions, which contain two or more new platelets, does not require a nucleus."

Schwertz and his colleagues found that the newly formed platelets are structurally and functionally indistinguishable from normal platelets and are similar in size, shape, and metabolic activity. Importantly, the group also demonstrated that platelets produce progeny in human whole blood cultures. This suggests that new treatments may be devised to increase circulating platelet numbers in patients whose platelet counts are abnormally low because of a medical condition.

Platelets are one of the most abundant cells in the bloodstream and their primary function is to halt bleedi
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Contact: Phil Sahm
Phil.Sahm@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-2517
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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