A group of scientists have found that a single molecule from a bacterial cell wall component can lead to anomalous behaviour in 100 million clotting molecules, which may be a major contributor to many diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The discovery could help to explain many features of these diseases, and may lead to new methods of prevention or treatment.
A South African team from the Department of Physiology at the University of Pretoria, led by Prof Resia Pretorius and including student Sthembile Mbotwe and researcher Dr Janette Bester, together with colleagues from the University of Manchester, under the leadership of Prof DouglasKell, tested the clotting ability of blood and plasma when the normal clotting agent thrombin was added to them. Normal, healthy blood clots have a nice spaghetti-like appearance. The team's resultshowever, showed that tiny amounts of cell wall molecules such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which are shed by dormant bacteria, caused a highly anomalous clot to form dense deposits with very different fibres. These can contribute to the chronic inflammation associated with many supposedly non-infectious diseases. In addition to those mentioned above, these include auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular problems such as stroke, and metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
The discovery could have a considerable impact on the treatment of these conditions. Existing treatments do not stop the unusual clotting, as the new mechanism was previously unknown, and it is expected that doing so would stop its consequences.