How does chemotherapy cause platelet numbers to drop

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Intravenous news: News Medical report “Scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have identified a way that chemotherapy causes platelet numbers to drop, answering in the process a decade-old question about the formation of platelets, tiny cells that allow blood to clot.

Platelets are formed by a process called ‘shedding’ where small fragments break off megakaryocytes (large cells normally found in the bone marrow). Drs Emma Josefsson, Chlo- James and Benjamin Kile from the institute’s Molecular Medicine and Cancer and Haematology divisions have been investigating how the survival of platelet- forming megakaryocytes is controlled at a molecular level.

The life-or-death decisions of cells are controlled by the Bcl-2 family of proteins. Some ‘pro-death’ Bcl-2 family proteins cause cells to die, while an opposing ‘pro-survival’ faction prevents cell death, allowing cells to survive. In the past decade it has been thought that platelets are formed by megakaryocytes through a process similar to cell death, Dr Josefsson said. “Our research tested this assumption by examining the molecules that are required for programmed cell death. We found that, at a molecular level, platelet formation does not occur by a death-like process.

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