Johns Hopkins researchers are using a $9 million NIH grant to transform stem cells into human platelet cells to study blood-clotting problems that lead to heart attacks or strokes. It's part of a nationwide program that looks at how genetic variations cause heart, lung and blood diseases, according to the JHU Gazette. Right now, blood thinners are used to prevent complications from heart or vascular diseases, but they do not always work on people with certain genetic variations. So, the researchers will try to understand the genetic reasons behind the function of platelets and genetic variations in how patients respond to medication like aspirin, designed to prevent clotting.
Another goal of the research is to create the ability to churn out blood platelets based on the patient's blood sample. "We will work to develop a completely new approach to generating blood cells for people who are desperately in need of chronic infusions," cardiologist Lewis Becker, co-principal investigator of the study, told the Gazette.
The researchers will use white blood cells from donated samples and turn them into induced pluripotent (iPS) stem cells. The iPS cells will then be "told" to form megakaryocytes, which live in bone marrow and produce platelets. The samples will be taken from among the 4,000 people who donated to the Johns Hopkins GeneSTAR study, which uncovered an important genetic region related to platelet function and the effect of aspirin on blood clotting, the Gazette reports.
The 5-year Johns Hopkins study is one of nine new NIH-funded stem cell projects to examine how gene variants cause disease.
- read the full story in the JHU Gazette