Soon, pill to prevent stroke, heart attack

Updated: Sep 01, 2013, 11:10 AM IST

Washington: Researchers have uncovered a key platelet protein that may offer a new angle for developing drugs to prevent stroke and heart attack.

Lead study author Stephen Holly , PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said that I think we`re at the start of an exciting journey of drug discovery for a new class of antithrombotic therapies.

In the human circulatory system, platelets are something of a double-edged sword. Without their clotting abilities, even a minor injury could result in potentially fatal bleeding.

But during a heart attack or stroke, platelets form a clot that can potentially block blood flow through our veins and arteries, a dangerous condition called thrombosis, which can deprive tissues of oxygen and lead to death.

Holly and his colleagues uncovered several potential drug targets using a screening technique that has never before been applied to the cardiovascular system.

The technique, called activity-based protein profiling, has been used in cancer research and allows researchers to track the actual activities of proteins operating within a cell.

The team first pre-screened human platelets to narrow the field of drug-like compounds, then generated an activity-based protein profile using one of these compounds to single out proteins that play a role in platelet activation.

This new knowledge of platelets` natural "on-off" switches could be exploited to develop drugs that keep platelets from forming pathological blood clots. As a next step, the researchers hope to investigate the proteins` roles in animal models before potentially pursuing clinical trials in humans.

The study has been published online in the journal Chemistry and Biology.