New hope for deep vein thrombosis patients

2 March 2017        

Category: Research

A close up of blood clots

Researchers have found a new target for drugs to prevent dangerous blood clots in the legs, thanks to our funding. The research found that mice with a defective receptor called CLEC-2 were protected from deep vein thrombosis.

The current treatments for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which affects around 60,000 people in the UK every year, include anti-clotting drugs such as heparin and warfarin. These drugs are relatively effective but put patients at increased risk of dangerous bleeding. This is because as well as targeting the blood clot, they also affect haemostasis, the body's natural response to blood vessel injury and bleeding. Imbalanced haemostasis can be dangerous, so patients have to be monitored carefully and hospitalised following bleeding injury.

What is DVT?

DVT is a blood clot that develops within a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg, and causes swelling, aching and difficulty walking. It can be caused by prolonged periods of immobility, such as after surgery or during a long flight. If the clot becomes dislodged it can travel to the lungs and block a blood vessel – this is known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). Twenty five per cent of PEs cause sudden death. 

Knocking out genes

In the study the researchers, led by Professor Alex Brill at the University of Birmingham, ‘knocked out’, or ‘turned off’ the gene for a receptor on the surface of platelets called CLEC-2. The ‘knock out mice’, which didn’t have CLEC-2, were protected from DVT. The team also found that in the veins, CLEC-2 binds to a protein called podoplanin. They showed that using drugs to block podoplanin can also suppress DVT.

Next steps

Now research is needed to find out if the same processes take place in humans, which could lead to clinical trials to prevent DVT and save lives.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“DVT is a global problem and current treatments carry significant risk of bleeding. Finding a new protein (podoplanin) specifically involved in venous, rather than arterial, thrombosis provides a real hope that it can be used as the target for new medicines that can block DVT without increasing bleeding risk. We look forward to the results of the next phase of this BHF-funded research.” 

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