"This link opens the door for studying severe, debilitating inflammatory disorders where the disease mechanism is still poorly understood, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, regional ileitis and ulcerative colitis, as well as age-related macular degeneration," said study co-author Dr. Joel Moake, a hematologist and senior research scientist in bioengineering at Rice. "There's clinical evidence that clotting and inflammation are somehow linked in many patients, even in the absence of an infection. This linkage could help explain some of the clinical cases that have long baffled physicians."
The link is biochemical. Nancy Turner, a research technician in Moake's lab, established the link after conducting hundreds of experiments on more than a dozen proteins, including key molecules involved with both clotting and the body's innate immune response.
"In addition to the clinical evidence, there's also a logical basis for this connection," Moake said. "Clotting is a type of wound response, and wounds are magnets for infection, so there could be a selective advantage in triggering both responses at the same time."
But the link could also have a downside. For example, if a person has a genetic mutation or acquired disorder that causes their blood to clot more often or more extensively than normal, the overactive clotting could lead to the kind of inflammation that would typically be caused by an infection. Furthermore, initiation of the clotting process may initiate clinical relapses in patients susceptible to various types of severe inflammatory disease.