Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Viruses and Clots

Clues to why there's an increased risk of heart attack with a viral infection

28 April 2019

Viruses and Clots

With a viral infection comes an increased risk of a heart attack, caused by a clot blocking blood flow to the heart. But why isn’t clear. Key to formation of blood clots are the circulating platelets and so researchers looked to see how they behave during a viral infection. Here, electron microscopy reveals flu virus particles (dark spheres) being engulfed by a platelet, watched over time until the virus is completely internalised (bottom right). Engulfing the virus makes the platelets release a chemical called C3 which causes immune cells called neutrophils to release their DNA. This act is thought to be beneficial as it prevents viruses commandeering that genetic code for their own replication. However, there’s a downside: these broken, sticky neutrophils aggregate with the platelets. It’s these clumps that may be contributing to the higher chance of a heart attack.

Written by Lindsey Goff

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