Thrombosis - Risks and Current Treatments
Blood clotting is an essential bodily function, one that helps wound-healing and prevents serious bleeding. However, in some cases, blood clots can form within the blood vessels themselves, decreasing blood flow to certain areas. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and once these blood clots form, they can travel to different organs and parts of the body through the cardiovascular system and could even cause life-threatening conditions like deep vein thrombosis, stroke, and heart attack.
In emergency situations like these, doctors will administer a course of anticoagulant medications to a patient, which will dissolve the blood clot by thinning out the blood. These medications, such as warfarin or heparin, for example, are also prescribed to patients who have a higher risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot. The drawback of these blood-thinners is, as previously mentioned, that they increase the risk of heavy bleeding, bruising, and possibly even internal bleeding in these patients, especially when administered after surgery and in emergency situations.
Therefore, for years, researchers have been trying to come up with alternatives to these dangerous drugs, and according to a new study by researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, they may have just found a likely candidate.
A New Approach to Blood Thinning Medications
In the article, the scientists present a new type of anticoagulant that resolves thrombosis more effectively than other common treatments, but without the associated risk of major bleeding. This new medication works by preventing the activation of a group of proteins called coagulation factor XII (FXII), which are the first step of the blood-clotting process.
Scientists first noticed the potential of this new approach to blood-thinning when they discovered that some humans naturally lack FXII. Interestingly, these individuals have a much lower risk of developing thrombosis, but at the same time, they do not bleed more than other people. As a result, researchers have designed and perfected a lab-made inhibitor of FXII called FXII618, which prevents the proteins from forming and is thus capable of precluding the formation of blood clots.
Once the molecule was created, the researchers then moved on to conduct testing on animal models to gauge the dosage and assess the safety of the medication. After this first round of testing on mice, rabbits, and pigs, the drug was found to be non-toxic. Further mouse model experiments of thrombosis and a rabbit model of an artificial lung further revealed that the medication was indeed 5 times more effective at preventing clotting than heparin, a common blood thinner, but without any bleeding as a side effect. This means that the new drug is a superior blood thinner and one that doesn't cause bleeding. These findings are extremely meaningful, and the researchers may begin human testing very soon.
In addition to being a good potential treatment for blood clots, the researchers also see other, no less impressive potential uses of the drug on other medical conditions related to FXII, namely Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and hereditary angioedema. That said, the researchers point out that this new treatment will not be able to prescribe FXII618 as an at-home treatment, as doctors need to re-administer the treatment often and it cannot be taken by mouth.
Therefore, at this time, this new medication will likely be limited to emergency hospital care, such as bypass surgery. Still, the new treatment shows a lot of promise and may be the next big step in thrombosis treatment.
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