Research Unit: Understanding platelets to better treat patients

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 Dr. Geraldine Walsh

In brief: Platelets contribute to the steady-state production of thrombopoietin (a hormone that regulates the production of platelets) by the liver. This has important implications in bleeding diseases and immune-mediated thrombocytopenias (conditions in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys blood platelets).

Our latest  ResearchUnit comes from the laboratory of Dr. Heyu Ni, a Canadian Blood Services scientist based at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto. Dr. Ni studies platelets, tiny cell fragments circulating in our blood, that are essential for wound repair and in stopping blood loss after injury.

With a biological lifespan of about 10 days, platelets are constantly produced by larger cells in our bone marrow. Dr. Ni’s work has uncovered a previously unknown link in the regulation of platelet production. Published in the journal Blood, his team shows that a platelet protein called GPIbα stimulates the liver to produce thrombopoietin, a hormone that plays an important role in controlling platelet production.

This discovery challenges prevailing theories of how thrombopoietin production is controlled. It may also explain unexpectedly low thrombopoietin levels observed in some patients with immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts). This work helps us better understand the cause of low platelet counts in these patients, and may help inform treatment choices.

To learn more, read our Research Unit about this important work here.


Research Units provide clear summaries of the results and impacts of research conducted at Canadian Blood Services. Written by Canadian Blood Services researchers in collaboration with the knowledge mobilization team, these summaries help disseminate research findings to facilitate informed decision-making.



Related blog posts

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Dr. Kendra Hodgkinson

For this “Meet the researcher” post, we met with Dr. Heyu Ni, a scientist at Canadian Blood Services’ Centre for Innovation who is an expert in platelet immunology and clotting.