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Johns Hopkins scientists begin first-of-its-kind research to create blood platelets from stem cells
Date:8/3/2011

Johns Hopkins scientists have launched a pioneering research program to create, for the first time, human platelet cells from stem cells in order to study inherited blood clotting abnormalities ranging from clots that cause heart attacks and stroke to bleeding disorders. The study is funded by a $9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a nationwide initiative to examine how genetic variations cause heart, lung and blood diseases.

One goal of the Hopkins research is to increase understanding of how genes regulate the function of platelets, which are the sticky cells in blood that are important to stop excessive bleeding. The researchers will also investigate how genetic variations can affect a person's responsiveness to aspirin and other medications that are designed to prevent clotting, in order to find new ways to prevent and treat abnormal clotting. Current anticoagulants, or "blood thinner" medications that are essential to prevent life-threatening complications from some heart or vascular diseases, are not always effective for individuals with certain genetic variations.

The other key aspect of the research will be to develop the technical capacity to produce large numbers of blood platelets from a single individual's blood sample. That way, patients who need platelet transfusions, such as those whose platelets were wiped out following chemotherapy, would be able to be transfused with their own platelets without the risk of rejection that comes with receiving platelets donated from others.

"We will work to develop a completely new approach to generating blood cells for people who are desperately in need of chronic infusions," says Lewis Becker, M.D., professor of medicine and cardiologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who is the co-principal investigator of the study, called Functional Genomics of Platelet Aggregation Using iPS and Derived Megakaryocites.

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Contact: Ellen Beth Levitt
eblevitt@jhmi.edu
410-955-5307
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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