Discovery may help those susceptible to deep-vein thrombosis, strokes and recurrent miscarriages

Australian researchers at University of New South Wales have identified a mechanism than can cause blood clots - a discovery with implications for those susceptible to deep-vein thrombosis, strokes and recurrent miscarriages.

The find could lead to improved treatment for those suffering from the potentially fatal autoimmune condition known as Antiphospholipid Syndrome, which can cause a clot in a vein or artery.

"Beta 2-glycoprotein 1 is the major protein involved in this condition and appears to be an important mechanism for the switch-off cycle in clot formation. We believe this is a regulator of the clotting system which was not previously identified," Professor Steven Krilis, of the Department of Immunology at St George Hospital said.

While blood clots and strokes are caused by extra thrombin production, this condition is also linked with recurrent miscarriage. Between 20 and 30 percent of women who have repeated miscarriages are believed to have the syndrome.

"It is thought that there is placental thrombosis and this causes the placenta to die in parts," Professor Krilis said. "The nutrients which go to the foetus decrease and this can cause miscarriage or growth retardation."

The discovery, the result of 15 years of research, could lead to the development of drugs to target Beta 2-glycoprotein 1 and help regulate these conditions.

"The current treatments for clotting have long-term side effects and complications such as bleeding. Some cannot be used in pregnant women. If we had a more targeted treatment it would cut down the potential side effects," he said.

Other UNSW researchers involved in the work are postdoctoral fellow Tong Shi, Jian Qi and Pamela Konecny in the Departments of Medicine and Immunology, Allergy and Infectious Diseases at St George Hospital. The research was done in collaboration with a biotechnology company in the USA.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

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