Leeds researchers awarded new grant to study the structure of deadly blood clots

16 April 2019        

Category: Research

Scientists in Leeds are to study the structure of blood clots, to help improve the treatment and prevention of heart attacks.

We awarded Professor Robert Ariens and his team at the University of Leeds £1.3m to study the role that a protein called fibrin plays in creating the deadly clots.

An electron microscope image showing red blood cells trapped in a blood clot by a fibrin biofilmAn electron microscope image showing red blood cells trapped in a blood clot by a fibrin biofilm

Understanding more about the dangers of blood clots

Blood clots within the coronary artery can stop the flow of blood to the heart muscle causing a heart attack. Each year in the UK there are almost 200,000 hospital visits due to a heart attack. Although survival rates have improved since we started funding research into new treatments, 180 people die from heart attacks in the UK each day.  

Previous research has shown that fibrin fibres play a crucial role in the structure of blood clots, ‘knitting’ the cells within them together, and forming a thin, protective, surface layer called a biofilm. Interfering with the way fibrin works is seen as a promising way to prevent dangerous blood clots forming.

Taking a closer look at fibrin

In this project, Professor Ariens will use state-of-the-art microscopy to study fibrin in the surface layer of clots in intricate detail. The team hopes to reveal how different fibrin structures affect the strength of clots in mice, and subsequently in patients.

Prof Ariens said: “We know that there are different kinds of blood clots, and we have observed in mice that where a fibrin biofilm is present, blood clots are more likely to restrict the movement of red blood cells – the important cells that carry oxygen to vital organs.

With this research we hope to show how it may be possible to use medication to remove or disable the fibrin, consequently reducing the risk of patients suffering a heart attack.”

Hopes for future treatments

Our Senior Research Advisor Abigail Woodfin explains how more knowledge about blood clots could help patients: “Blood clots are responsible for causing serious and debilitating conditions like heart attack and stroke. This research at the University of Leeds will contribute to a much greater understanding of the structure of these deadly blood clots, and could pave the way for better, more effective preventative treatments.”

The BHF currently funds over £20million of life-saving research in Leeds. Find out more about fundraising for the BHF's vital research.