The solution to a rare but debilitating and often fatal blood disease may be as close as your medicine cabinet, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists have discovered.
Researchers in the lab of OMRF scientist Lijun Xia, M.D., Ph.D., found that low-dosage aspirin could prevent acute attacks of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, or TTP, in mouse models. The findings were published in the journal Blood.
TTP is thought to affect between 1 and 4 per 100,000 people. In it, blood clots form in small blood vessels throughout the body. These clots can block blood flow, often resulting in organ damage or stroke. In most patients, the disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the body destroys an enzyme that controls blood clotting. Without it, the body makes too many blood clots, said Xia, who leads OMRF’s Cardiovascular Biology Research Program.
“People with this disorder live in fear of the next attack,” said OMRF Vice President of Research Rod McEver, M.D., a hematologist and physician-scientist. “This research gives those patients the possibility of living their lives free from that specter.”
Doctors have lacked viable options for preventing TTP attacks. As a result, the condition can prove fatal.
OMRF scientist Bojing Shao, Ph.D., who initiated the study, said although aspirin has long been known to prevent blood clots that cause a stroke, researchers believed this solution wasn’t applicable to TTP. Shao’s previous research regarding blood platelet adhesion prompted him to test that belief in mouse models of the disease.
“Often, our research can take decades to go through the process of multiple clinical trials before it is approved for use by patients,” he said. “What is particularly rewarding about this finding is the prospect of immediate applicability.”
Among those contributing to the research was James George, M.D., a University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center physician-scientist and TTP expert.
“Dr. Shao’s observations suggest that daily use of low-dose aspirin may prevent these critical episodes, similarly to how it can prevent a heart attack or stroke,” George said. “This could be an amazing benefit for patients with TTP.”
Because the study was done in mice, George and Xia noted that people with TTP should consult their physician before altering their current treatment plan.
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grant No. R01HL149860 and American Heart Association grant No. 18CDA34120009. Scientists at the University of North Carolina, Bloodworks Research Institute in Seattle, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium contributed to the research.