Yale Researchers Explore the Possibilities of von Willebrand Factor

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have been studying the key clotting protein von Willebrand factor (VWF), to shed light on the processes by which it is stored and released in response to an injury. As VWF is the deficient protein in many cases von Willebrand disease (VWD), a better understanding of it could ultimately lead to enhanced clinical outcomes for patients.

The study was presented as an oral poster abstract presentation by lead investigator Anish Sharda, MD, MPH, at the last week’s 65th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and Exposition, which was held December 8-12, in San Diego, CA. Dr. Sharda is a Yale Cancer Center member and assistant professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. He also sees patients as part of the Smilow Classical Hematology Program.

Sharda’s clinical and research interests are in bleeding, clotting, and platelet disorders, while his research in vascular biology is funded by the National Institutes of Health. “Von Willebrand disease is common but the current treatment options are limited, partly because our understanding of how VWF, which is so critical for normal blood coagulation, is stored in the vascular lining of cells and is ultimately secreted at the site of vascular injury,” he explained.

Sharda and his team are looking closely at Ral-B, a cellular protein that works as a “molecular switch” to bring vWF out of the cell and into the body’s circulation.  

Their experiments were conducted using human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) which can are found in large veins of the body. HUVECs are often used in early research for several reasons, including their cost efficiency and accessibility. 

Their findings, along with future research could lead to better treatments not only for VWD but also for cardiovascular disease and other pathophysiologic processes related to cancer metastasis and the formation of healthy, new blood vessels, also known as angiogenesis.

“We are excited that our research data are being recognized as important by the American Society of Hematology, and we hope to closely translate these results in the clinic in the coming years,” added Sharda. 

Source: Yale School of Medicine, December 8, 2023

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