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Biochemistry of microparticles

Microparticles were in 1967 originally described as “platelet dust”. In the following years, it was shown that it was fragments of cell membranes, created by exocytosis. Apart from thrombocytes, also leukocytes, erythrocytes, vascular smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells are capable of forming microparticles. There are several situations that might lead to (an increased) microparticle production. Among these are apoptosis, mechanical stresses and activation processes. It is generally considered that the formation of microparticles is under the influence of a regulatory mechanism, but details thereof are still unclear. Microparticles are made up of a phospholipid double membrane. On the outside are negatively charged phospholipids, such as phosphatidylserine. The outer surface also contains traces of the particles’ origin: Those with a thrombocytic descent have e.g. fibrinogen receptor GP IIb/IIIa, and particles stemming from monocytes contain CD 14. The internal compositions are unknown.

By current knowledge, microparticles are considered involved in both physiological and patophysiological roles. They have an important effect on coagulation activation, angiogenesis, apoptosis and inflammation. In many disease states where an elevated coagulability is present, the concentration of circulating microparticles is apparently increased. Since microparticles are also found in atherosclerotic plaques they might also be of major significance for the formation and progression of arterial thromboses (e.g. myocardial infarction or stroke).

Noticable is also that subjects with a bleeding tendency has a considerably lower blood level of circulating microparticles.

Clinical or Research use of Microparticles

  • Differential diagnosis for determining possible reasons for an increased / reduced coagulatory potential.

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