Biomedicine

Sealed with a Platelet

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Science  01 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5961, pp. 13
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5961.13-a
CREDIT: ADAPTED BY NAT. MED. 10.1038/NM.2060 (2009)

The fetal circulatory system has distinctive anatomical features because the fetus obtains oxygen through the placenta rather than through its lungs. Before birth, a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus (DA) allows blood to bypass the nonfunctional fetal lungs by connecting the pulmonary artery, which supplies blood to the lungs, with the aorta, which supplies blood to the rest of the body. This vessel normally closes a day or two after birth, but in some newborns, it remains open and can lead to life-threatening complications. Studying newborn mice, Echtler et al. make the surprising observation that platelets—cells noted for their role in blood clotting—were recruited to the lumen of the DA within 20 minutes after birth of the mice; when platelet production or function was disrupted, the DA failed to close completely, leading to abnormal patterns of blood flow. The recruited platelets play a dual role in DA closure—by forming a physical plug that seals the lumen of the constricted DA and by altering the behavior of other cell types involved in blood vessel remodeling.

Nat. Med. 10.1038/nm.2060 (2009).

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