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Blood. 2011 Sep 29;118(13):3661-9. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-02-338244. Epub 2011 Aug 3.

Occlusive thrombi arise in mammals but not birds in response to arterial injury: evolutionary insight into human cardiovascular disease.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Mammalian platelets are small, anuclear circulating cells that form tightly adherent, shear-resistant thrombi to prevent blood loss after vessel injury. Platelet thrombi that form in coronary and carotid arteries also underlie common vascular diseases such as myocardial infarction and stroke and are the target of drugs used to treat these diseases. Birds have high-pressure cardiovascular systems like mammals but generate nucleated thrombocytes rather than platelets. Here, we show that avian thrombocytes respond to many of the same activating stimuli as mammalian platelets but are unable to form shear-resistant aggregates ex vivo. Avian thrombocytes are larger than mammalian platelets, spread less efficiently on collagen, and express much lower levels of the α(₂b)β₃ integrin required for aggregate formation, features predicted to make thrombocyte aggregates less resistant than platelets are to the high fluid shear forces of the arterial vasculature. In vivo carotid vessel injury stimulates the formation of occlusive platelet thrombi in mice but not in the size- and flow-matched carotid artery of the Australian budgerigar. These studies indicate that unique physical and molecular features of mammalian platelets enable them to form shear-resistant arterial thrombi, an essential element in the pathogenesis of human cardiovascular diseases.

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