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May 30th, 2009
Millions of people around the world are prone to dangerous blood clots. Now researchers have had early success with a new way to prevent them--and the strokes, heart attacks, and pulmonary embolisms they cause. Nano-sized particles of silver can stop sticky blood cells called platelets from clinging together in laboratory strains of mice, the team reports.
Platelets help the body stop bleeding. But if they clump together too much, they can also form clots within the bloodstream. A deep-vein thrombosis, for example, can form in the lower leg and block blood flow. If the clot is not broken up quickly using injections of powerful anticoagulants, it can break loose and cut blood supply to the heart or brain, with fatal consequences. As a result, the nearly 500 million sufferers worldwide of clotting-related disorders--including this reporter--must take daily doses of anticoagulants, which carry dangers of their own, such as spontaneous and uncontrollable internal bleeding.
The key, then, is to find an agent that prevents platelets from sticking together too much without impeding their ability to shunt a bleed. Recent research on silver nanoparticles--tiny grains of the metal less than 1/50,000th the width of a human hair--indicated that they might do the trick. So a biomedical team from Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India, began exploring their potential, in cooperation with materials science colleagues at the university and at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials in Balapur, India.
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