Technological advances in diagnostic testing for von Willebrand disease: new approaches and challenges

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Abstract

Diagnostic tests for von Willebrand disease (VWD) are important for the assessment of VWD, which is a commonly encountered bleeding disorder worldwide. Technical innovations have been applied to improve the precision and lower limit of detection of von Willebrand factor (VWF) assays, including the ristocetin cofactor activity assay (VWF:RCo) that uses the antibiotic ristocetin to induce plasma VWF binding to glycoprotein (GP) IbIXV on target platelets. VWF-collagen-binding assays, depending on the type of collagen used, can improve the detection of forms of VWD with high molecular weight VWF multimer loss, although the best method is debatable. A number of innovations have been applied to VWF:RCo (which is commonly performed on an aggregometer), including replacing the target platelets with immobilized GPIbα, and quantification by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), immunoturbidimetric, or chemiluminescent end-point. Some common polymorphisms in the VWF gene that do not cause bleeding are associated with falsely low VWF activity by ristocetin-dependent methods. To overcome the need for ristocetin, some new VWF activity assays use gain-of-function GPIbα mutants that bind VWF without the need for ristocetin, with an improved precision and lower limit of detection than measuring VWF:RCo by aggregometry. ELISA of VWF binding to mutated GPIbα shows promise as a method to identify gain-of-function defects from type 2B VWD. The performance characteristics of many new VWF activity assays suggest that the detection of VWD, and monitoring of VWD therapy, by clinical laboratories could be improved through adopting newer generation VWF assays.

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