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Semin Hematol. 1986 Jan;23(1):8-26.

The role of platelets in the development and complications of atherosclerosis.

Abstract

Although lipids have received most attention in relation to atherosclerosis, vessel injury also has a role in the development of atherosclerotic lesions. Thrombi that form at sites of injury can be incorporated into the wall, causing thickening, and platelets that adhere to damaged vessel walls release a growth factor (PDGF) that stimulates smooth muscle cell proliferation. The early lesions of atherosclerosis are focal and develop around vessel orifices and branches in relation to the patterns of blood flow and areas of increased permeability and endothelial cell damage. Platelets also contribute to the complications of advanced atherosclerosis caused by occlusive thrombi, thromboembolism, and spasm. The causes of vessel wall injury are not established, although there is evidence pointing to disturbed blood flow, hypertension, antigen--antibody complexes, complement, materials originating from platelets and white blood cells, bacteria, endotoxin, viruses, smoking, dietary lipids, homocystinemia, diabetes, other metabolic disorders, and stress. Platelets do not adhere to intact endothelium, but they adhere to the constituents of the subendothelium, release the contents of their granules (including PDGF), and form thromboxanes. If blood flow is disturbed, platelet--fibrin thrombi can form at sites of injury. Platelet adherence to a damaged wall does not require von Willebrand factor except under conditions of high wall shear. Repeated injury of a vessel wall leads to the development of lipid-rich atherosclerotic lesions, even in normocholesterolemic animals, but these lesions do not form if the experimental animals are made thrombocytopenic before injury is induced. Measurable changes in platelets that are associated with the clinical complications of atherosclerosis include shortened survival, release of granule contents (platelet factor 4, beta-thromboglobulin, thrombospondin), formation of thromboxanes, and decreased buoyant density. "Antiplatelet drugs" such as aspirin are proving to be beneficial in selected groups of patients, such as those with unstable angina. Thromboxane synthetase inhibitors and agents that block the thromboxane receptor on platelets are under investigation. Long term administration of "antiplatelet drugs" to affect the rate of development of atherosclerosis seems neither feasible nor desirable. Modification of dietary and smoking habits and control of hypertension are more likely to be beneficial for most individuals.

PMID:
3511536
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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