Do platelets recruit white blood cells into fatty plaques in atherosclerosis?

Do platelets exacerbate the atherogenic process by regulating the recruitment, differentiation and inflammatory function of monocytes?

Ed Rainger (lead researcher)

Birmingham, University of

Start date: 01 September 2012 (Duration 5 years)

A group of researchers at the University of Birmingham led by Professor Ed Rainger are investigating the possible role of cells called platelets in atherosclerosis, the process behind coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack).

During a heart attack, a blood clot in the coronary artery starves the heart of oxygen. As a result, cells in the heart die and it cannot function normally. The cause of heart attacks is the ‘furring up’ of arteries nourishing the heart with oxygen, which eventually triggers the blood clot.

This furring up of arteries happens when a mixture of fats, blood cells and proteins, called a plaque, builds up in the vessel wall. As part of plaque formation white blood cells called monocytes invade the vessel wall. Once inside, these cells can turn into ‘angry’ giant cells called foam cells, which inflame the surrounding area and contribute to the build-up of the plaque.

There are many platelets in the blood, which form blood clots. But this research group has shown that platelets could also contribute to the build-up of fatty plaques. In particular, these researchers are interested in the interaction between platelets, white blood cells, and the walls of blood vessels. This latest award will allow them to expand their recent work showing that platelets can act as bridges between blood vessel cells and white blood cells, helping to draw white blood cells into a plaque.

Looking in mice and samples of human blood vessels, the scientists will investigate the effect of platelets on the development of plaques, including their possible role in turning monocytes into foam cells.

This research will lead us to a better understanding of the causes of CHD, and could help lead to new treatments in the future.

Project details

Grant amount £758,669
Grant type Programme Grant
Start Date 01 September 2012
Duration 5 years
Reference RG/12/7/29693
Status Complete

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