Versiti Blood Research Institute Articles
Exploring the Life Cycle of Platelets
Associate Investigator Shawn Jobe, MD, PhD, studies what happens to platelets after they’ve helped stop bleeding.
When your body experiences a trauma, whether it’s surgery or a skinned knee, your platelets activate and begin clumping together to stop the bleeding. This process, known as hemostasis, is completely normal; however, some people’s platelets don’t work the way they should. These patients can sometimes develop blood clots, if too many platelets clump together; or, if their platelets don’t activate properly, they may experience severe bleeding that won’t stop.
Several investigators at Versiti Blood Research Institute study the function of platelets as they relate to bleeding and clotting disorders. Associate Investigator Shawn Jobe, MD, PhD, however, is interested in what happens to platelets after they’ve done their job. “I’m interested in thinking about the function of platelets after they clump together to stop bleeding, because they form a temporary seal in the vasculature,” he said.
Dr. Jobe likens this seal to filling a pothole. Ideally, the repaired surface should be even with the rest of the road; platelets are supposed to do the same thing in a blood vessel. Platelets contain a mechanism that sets up the process for ensuring the “pothole” in the blood vessel is filled properly. “The initial process sends messages,” he said. “It lays a framework for a series of instructions about what has happened so that the next cell can do its job.”
Mitochondria—the powerhouse of the cell—is important for informing platelets what form they should take after they have done their job and filled the pothole. Defining this process will help investigators like Dr. Jobe understand why some patients experience clotting or severe bleeding. “By understanding the fundamental mechanisms and how platelets function, we can get at the foundation of what goes wrong,” he said, and better enable investigators to diagnose, treat and even cure bleeding and clotting disorders.
About the expert: Shawn Jobe, MD, PhD, is an associate investigator at Versiti Blood Research Institute and a medical director at Versiti Comprehensive Center for Bleeding Disorders.