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Semin Thromb Hemost. 2002 Apr;28(2):167-72.

Assays of von Willebrand factor-cleaving protease: a test for diagnosis of familial and acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.

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Central Hematology Laboratory, University Hospital, Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland.


Endothelial cells secrete von Willebrand factor (vWF) multimers that are larger than those found in the circulating plasma. These very large multimeric forms of vWF, capable of spontaneously binding to and agglutinating the blood platelets under conditions of high fluid shear rate, are degraded by a specific metalloprotease cleaving the peptide bond 842Tyr-843Met of the vWF subunit. The vWF-cleaving protease was found to be deficient in patients with familial thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). The acute events in these patients can be successfully treated and prophylactically prevented by repletion of the missing protease using fresh frozen plasma (FFP). In another, apparently more common, form of TTP, the protease deficiency is due to inhibiting circulating antibodies directed against the vWF-cleaving protease. Therapy of these patients should include immunosuppressive treatment in addition to plasma exchange and replacement with FFP. Normal activity of vWF-cleaving protease was established in patients with a clinically similar disorder: hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). The level of vWF-cleaving protease activity is thus a laboratory parameter that provides important information for the differential diagnosis and treatment of patients with TTP/HUS. Several assays of vWF-cleaving protease have been described and are summarized here.

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