Team Discovers How Blood-Clotting von Willebrand Factor Works

06:14 EDT 23 Aug 2017 | Genetic Engineering News

Researchers in the Boston Children's Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine and the Harvard Medical School Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology have shown how the von Willebrand factor (VWF), which plays a critical role in our body's ability to stop bleeding, does its job.  Fluorescence imaging and microfluidic tools, developed by the team, allowed them to capture images of individual VWF molecules on camera while manipulating the molecules with life-like mechanical forces emulating natural blood flow.  The team's findings ("Flow-induced elongation of von Willebrand factor precedes tension-dependent activation"), published in Nature Communications, reveal that VWF undergoes a two-step, shapeshifting transformation to activate blood clotting. This transformation is triggered when VWF senses certain changes in blood flow that are indicative of injury.  "Under normal circumstances, VWF molecules are compact and globular in shape," says Hongxia Fu, PhD, a researcher in the lab of Timothy Springer, PhD, of Boston Children's Hospital ...

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