How much do we really know about von Willebrand disease?

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Purpose of review

In the last nine decades, large advances have been made toward the characterization of the pathogenic basis and clinical management of von Willebrand disease (VWD), the most prevalent inherited bleeding disorder. Pathological variations at the von Willebrand factor (VWF) locus present as a range of both quantitative and qualitative abnormalities that make up the complex clinical spectrum of VWD. This review describes the current understanding of the pathobiological basis of VWD.

Recent findings

The molecular basis of type 2 (qualitative abnormalities) and type 3 VWD (total quantitative deficiency) have been well characterized in recent decades. However, knowledge of type 1 VWD (partial quantitative deficiency) remains incomplete because of the allelic and locus heterogeneity of this trait, and is complicated by genetic variability at the VWF gene, interactions between the VWF gene and the environment, and the involvement of external modifying loci. Recent genome wide association studies and linkage analyses have sought to identify additional genes that modify the type 1 VWD phenotype.


Understanding the pathogenic basis of VWD will facilitate the development of novel treatment regimens for this disorder, and improve the ability to provide complementary molecular diagnostics for type 1 VWD.

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