"Healthy male relatives of patients with severe premature coronary artery disease form fibrin clots that contain thicker fiber networks and are less porous than those of healthy subjects," says Robert Ariëns, Ph.D., a researcher from the Academic Unit of Molecular Vascular Medicine at the University of Leeds in Leeds, U.K.
Blood clots are composed of fibrin, which is an elastic, threadlike protein. Genetic and environmental factors influence the structure and function of the clot. Researchers know that fibrin clots in young heart disease patients are dense fiber networks, but no one had studied whether relatives' blood shared the characteristic.
"If relatives share this same problem, they could also be at risk for premature heart disease," says Ariëns.
Researchers analyzed blood from 100 healthy male first-degree relatives of patients with severe heart disease and 100 unrelated individuals of similar ages. All were 65-years-old or younger and had no personal history of heart disease. They had similar lifestyle habits, and conventional cardiovascular risk factors.
The fibrin structure, the rate at which the clot forms, and the thickness of the fibers was tested. Scanning electron microscopy, which helps visualize clot structure differences, was performed on selected samples. Under the microscope, the abnormal clots look like tightly tangled hair.
By analyzing these components, the researchers found that the family members had clots that formed quicker and were composed of thicker, dense fibers.
"The clots were also less permeable than the blood clots of the healthy controls. These characteristics make it more difficult for the body to dissolve blood clots before they cause blood flow problems."
Low-dose aspirin decreases clotting in healthy people and it may be suggested for relatives of patients with premature heart disease, even if they don't have other risk factors, according to the researchers.
Co-authors are J.D. Mills, M.R.C.P.; R.A.S. Ariëns, Ph.D.; M.W. Mansfield, D.M., M.R.C.P.; and P.J. Grant, M.D., F.R.C.P.
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