Platelets are small, anucleate cells that travel as resting discoid fragments in the circulation. Their average circulating life span is 8–9 days, and their formation is an elegant and finely orchestrated series of cellular processes known as megakaryocytopoiesis and thrombopoiesis. This involves the commitment of haematopoietic stem cells, proliferation, terminal differentiation of megakaryocytic progenitors and maturation of megakaryocytes to produce functional platelets. This complex process occurs in specialised endosteal and vascular niches in the bone marrow where megakaryocytes form proplatelet projections, releasing platelets into the circulation. Upon contact with an injured blood vessel, they prevent blood loss through processes of adhesion, activation and aggregation. Platelets play a central role in cardiovascular disease (CVD), both in the development of atherosclerosis and as the cellular mediator in the development of thrombosis. Platelets have diverse roles not limited to thrombosis/haemostasis, also being involved in many vascular inflammatory conditions. Depending on the physiological context, platelet functions may be protective or contribute to adverse thrombotic and inflammatory outcomes. In this chapter, we will discuss platelets in context of their formation and function. Because of their multifaceted role in maintaining physiological homeostasis, current and development of platelet function testing platforms will be discussed.
Part of the book: Homeostasis
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors can be classed as modifiable or non-modifiable. Physical inactivity and obesity represent major behavioural risk factors for the initiation, development and progression of CVD. Platelet dysfunction is pivotal to the aetiology of CVD, a chronic vascular inflammatory condition, which is characterised by a lag time between onset and clinical manifestation. This indicates the role of epigenetic drift, defined by stochastic patterns of gene expression not dependent on dynamic changes in coding DNA. The epigenome, a collection of chemical marks on DNA and histones, is established during embryogenesis and modified by age and lifestyle. Biogenesis and effector function of non-coding RNA, such as microRNA, play a regulatory role in gene expression and thus the epigenetic mechanism. In this chapter, we will focus on the effect of the modifiable risk factors of physical activity/inactivity and overweight/obesity on platelet function, via epigenetic changes in both megakaryocytopoiesis and thrombopoiesis. We will also discuss the role of acute exercise on platelet function and the impact of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) on platelet responses to acute exercise. This chapter will highlight the potential role of platelets as circulating functional biomarkers of epigenetic drift to implement, optimise and monitor CVD preventive management strategies.
Part of the book: Homeostasis