Leeds researchers awarded £1.3 million to study the role of fibrin in blood clots

A recent grant from the British Heart Foundation has been award to the University of Leeds to help improve the treatment and prevention of heart attacks.

Professor Robert Ariens and his team at the University of Leeds have been awarded £1.3m by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to study the role that the protein fibrin plays in creating them. 

Fibrin (also referred to as Factor Ia) is a fibrous, non-globular protein involved in the clotting of blood. It is formed by the action of the protease enzyme thrombin on the glycoprotein fibrinogen which causes it to polymerize, creating a large joined mass of these proteins. The polymerized fibrin together with platelets forms a haemostatic plug or clot over a wound site, a process normally vital in natural wound healing.

However, blood clots within the coronary artery can stop the flow of blood to the heart muscle, resulting in a lack of oxygenated blood reaching the cardiac tissue causing cells to die or become damaged and consequently result in a heart attack.

Previous research has shown that fibrin fibres play a crucial role in the structure of blood clots, ‘knitting’ the cells within them together, and forming a thin, protective, surface layer. Interfering with the way fibrin works and binds to each other is seen as a promising way to prevent these dangerous blood clots forming and potentially reducing the risk of future heart attacks.

In this project, Professor Ariens will use state-of-the-art microscopy to study the structure fibrin in the surface layer of clots in intricate detail. The team hopes to reveal how different fibrin structures contribute to the stability of the clot in mice, and then subsequently in patients.

Professor Ariens has this to say on the research: “We know that there are different kinds of blood clots, and we have observed in mice that where a fibrin biofilm is present, blood clots are more likely to restrict the movement of red blood cells – the important cells that carry oxygen to vital organs.

With this research we hope to show how it may be possible to use medication to remove or disable the fibrin, consequently reducing the risk of patients suffering a heart attack.”

BHF Senior Research Advisor Abigail Woodfin said: “Blood clots are responsible for causing serious and debilitating conditions like heart attack and stroke. This research at the University of Leeds will contribute to a much greater understanding of the structure of these deadly blood clots, and could pave the way for better, more effective preventative treatments.”

The BHF currently funds over £20million of life-saving research in Leeds. To find out more about supporting the BHF to continue its vital work, please visit the British Heart Foundation Website

Further information

For interview requests please contact Simon Moore, Press Officer at the University of Leeds, on +44(0)113 34 38059 or s.i.moore@leeds.ac.uk.