The role of platelets in hemostasis and the effects of snake venom toxins on platelet function

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Abstract

The human body has a set of physiological processes, known as hemostasis, which keeps the blood fluid and free of clots in normal vessels; in the case of vascular injury, this process induces the local formation of a hemostatic plug, preventing hemorrhage. The hemostatic system in humans presents complex physiological interactions that involve platelets, plasma proteins, endothelial and subendothelial structures. Disequilibrium in the regulatory mechanisms that control the growth and the size of the thrombus is one of the factors that favors the development of diseases related to vascular disorders such as myocardial infarction and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death in the western world. Interfering with platelet function is a strategy for the treatment of thrombotic diseases. Antiplatelet drugs are used mainly in cases related to arterial thrombosis and interfere in the formation of the platelet plug by different mechanisms. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is the oldest and most widely used antithrombotic drug. Although highly effective in most cases, aspirin has limitations compared to other drugs used in the treatment of homeostatic disorders. For this reason, research related to molecules that interfere with platelet aggregation are of great relevance. In this regard, snake venoms are known to contain a number of molecules that interfere with hemostasis, including platelet function. The mechanisms by which snake venom components inhibit or activate platelet aggregation are varied and can be used as tools for the diagnosis and the treatment of several hemostatic disorders. The aim of this review is to present the role of platelets in hemostasis and the mechanisms by which snake venom toxins interfere with platelet function.

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