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Cell. 2003 Jan 10;112(1):87-97.

The clearance mechanism of chilled blood platelets.

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  • 1Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Platelet transfusion is a very common lifesaving medical procedure. Not widely known is the fact that platelets, unlike other blood cells, rapidly leave the circulation if refrigerated prior to transfusion. This peculiarity requires blood services to store platelets at room temperature, limiting platelet supplies for clinical needs. Here, we describe the mechanism of this clearance system, a longstanding mystery. Chilling platelets clusters their von Willebrand (vWf) receptors, eliciting recognition of mouse and human platelets by hepatic macrophage complement type 3 (CR3) receptors. CR3-expressing but not CR3-deficient mice exposed to cold rapidly decrease platelet counts. Cooling primes platelets for activation. We propose that platelets are thermosensors, primed at peripheral sites where most injuries occurred throughout evolution. Clearance prevents pathologic thrombosis by primed platelets. Chilled platelets bind vWf and function normally in vitro and ex vivo after transfusion into CR3-deficient mice. Therefore, GPIb modification might permit cold platelet storage.

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