A drop for research

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With the daily barrage of crises and emergency situations around the world, the natural human response is: “What can I do? How can I help?”

Give blood. Give now. Give often.

That is the slogan for this year’s World Blood Donor Day. On June 14 every year, this day is celebrated globally to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products and to thank blood donors for their life-changing gifts of blood.

Blood donations can currently be made into 22 different medical treatments, including for heart disease and open heart surgery. But this barely scrapes the surface of the possible applications. 

Blood donations are also vital for progressing medical research, such as that being conducted by the Thrombosis Group at the Heart Research Institute.

The Heart Research Institute and the Charles Perkins Centre in Sydney are at work developing new therapies to protect people from blood clots that cause heart attack and stroke. Blood-thinning medications like Warfarin and aspirin are used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke but these drugs can cause side effects, and patients on Warfarin need to be carefully monitored.

The team has discovered an enzyme with a very special ability to reduce build-up of blood clots that clog arteries while also sticking blood firmly to the site of blood vessel injury. In order to test this enzyme and develop new protective medications, the research team uses donations of blood.

The leader of the project, Professor Shaun Jackson, believes the new therapies in development will be more effective than current pharmacy drugs and a game changer for how the disease is managed.

"We're talking about a raft of exciting new medicines that represent one of the most promising new ways of treating disease," says Professor Jackson.
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