When you bleed, the platelets in your blood work to coagulate and close the wound. But platelets also play a more adverse role, since they intervene in the development of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Éric Boilard, professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval and researcher at the CHU de Québec Research Centre – Université Laval, made the discovery when he was seeking to understand why people suffering from inflammatory diseases are more prone to cardiovascular disorders than the rest of the population. He now aims to find new treatments for inflammation.
Once in the joint, the microparticles augmented the inflammatory processes.
By closely analyzing the synovial fluid around arthritic joints, Éric Boilard uncovered a high concentration of blood platelet fragments known as microparticles. Intrigued by his observation, the researcher then tried to understand how the microparticles ended up outside the blood by injecting fluorescent microspheres into arthritic mice and following the pathway to the joints. He noted that the minuscule particles exited the blood vessels through microscopic gaps that were too small for blood cells but large enough for platelet fragments. Once in the joint, the microparticles augmented the inflammatory processes of diseases such as arthritis by activating autoantibodies that resist the body's natural defences.
But how do the platelets form microparticles? When Éric Boilard and his team posed the question, they were able to identify a key molecule that triggers the mechanism. They now hope to make the molecule a therapeutic target in arthritis treatment to block the production of microparticles without impacting the platelets, which are critical to stemming hemorrhages.