It is week 7 on the live blood analysis training course and we are studying thrombocytes (platelets) and what happens when they aggregate (form clots)
Thrombocytes are irregularly-shaped cells that do not have nuclei and are much smaller than red blood cells. They are typically 2-3 µm in diameter and have an average lifespan in the circulation of 8 to 12 days. They can be seen clearly in live blood analysis, darkfield microscopy.
Thrombocytes are formed in the bone marrow where they bud off from megakaryocytes.
Thrombocytes are probably the most important elements of haemostasis (the control of blood loss through blood clotting).
The number of thrombocytes in circulation is a vital determining factor in a person’s tendency to thrombosis (clotting) or haemorrhage (bleeding). If the number is too low (thrombocytopenia), bleeding can occur, whereas an abnormally high number of thrombocytes (thrombocytosis) may lead to thrombosis (blood clots).
Thrombocytes also release a variety of growth factors that play an important role in the healing of damaged tissue.
Thrombocytes are an important part of the clotting mechanism. These tiny structures circulate through the body in an inactive state. When they are inactive they are disc shaped and repel each other, but when they become activated they assume a star-like shape and enmesh with each other (and fibrin) to form a clot. (Thrombocyte aggregation in live blood analysis).
Platelets are programmed to become activated by chemicals released by damaged blood vessel walls or other activator chemicals, such as thrombin, platelet activating factor (PAF), adrenalin and a number of others.
This platelet activation is an important process where it is needed, but not good when it occurs when you don’t need a blood clot which can be potentially dangerous as this can increase the risk of heart disease significantly. These clots can also clog tiny blood vessels and lead to larger clots in a snowball-type effect.
Thrombocyte aggregation can be associated with increased heart disease risk even when the cholesterol levels are healthy as there are a number of other factors that may cause platelets to group together, not just cholesterol.
It is quite common to have a client for live blood analysis with thrombocyte aggregation that may be due to blood sugar imbalance or simply stress, who has a normal cholesterol level.
There is still however an increased risk of heart disease because although the mechanism is different, the end result is still micro-clots circulating around in the blood.
Thrombocyte aggregation is more directly linked to heart disease risk than cholesterol, so we take this finding quite seriously when we see it in live blood analysis.
Copyright Dr Okker R. Botha, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2009