Watch: Research into blood clots

Thanks to BHF funding, Dr Tom McKinnon is aiming to find a new drug that reduces the risk of blood clots that cause a heart attack or stroke. Watch our video to learn more about his work.

 

Heart attacks and strokes are often caused by blood clots that have blocked an artery. Although blood clotting is a vital function that stops us losing too much blood from wounds, when it happens too much it can cause problems.

There are already drugs to reduce the risk of blood clots, but most of them also increase the risk of too much bleeding and bruising. Dr Tom McKinnon at Imperial College London is looking for a new drug. He is studying a large sticky protein involved in the clotting process, called von Willebrand factor (VWF), to understand the way it works.

Making models of blood flow 

Dr McKinnon says: “We are looking at how blood clots form, under conditions that mimic blood flow. We mimic a damaged blood vessel, we make a model of it and we look at how the blood flows through it. We can see what happens when there is not enough VWF present or too much. We have done experiments where we have seen the blood clots reducing in size.

“The ultimate aim of our research is a cardiovascular drug that safely reduces the risk of blood clots without causing the bleeding side effects.”

No animals are used in the research - in fact the researchers are so dedicated that they use their own blood for the tests. Dr McKinnon says: “I have given blood so many times you can see all my veins! We have set it up so we don’t need to use too much blood and we don’t need to use animals.”

“BHF funding has been immensely useful. I have been funded by the BHF since the beginning of my academic career in 2003. Without BHF funding I wouldn’t be doing this job.”

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