UCL News


New research to tackle the causes of blood clotting disorder

31 January 2007

Dr John Ioannou (UCL Centre for Rheumatology) has been awarded a clinician scientist fellowship of £283,000 by the Arthritis Research Campaign to study the condition of anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS), a clotting disorder that leads to thrombosis and frequent miscarriage.

Dr John Ioannou

APS, which causes blood to clot too quickly, is the most common cause of thrombotic stroke in people aged under 50. Around 30 per cent of people with APS also suffer from lupus, an auto-immune condition affecting the joints and internal organs.

Dr Ioannou aims to understand the basic mechanism of how the disease occurs to find more effective ways of treating it. For the first two years of his three-year fellowship he will be working with scientists in New South Wales, Australia, before bringing his newly gained expertise and knowledge back to the UK.

Previous research by the Arthritis Research Campaign helped to drastically reduce the rate of miscarriage by giving women at risk special anti-coagulant (blood thinning) medication. However, although the risk of thrombosis can be reduced by low-dose aspirin, some patients still die as a result.

Dr Ioannou explained: "Clearly there remains an unmet need for safer, targeted therapies for APS, and this need is likely to be achieved through developing a greater understanding of the underlying pathogenic mechanisms."

In APS patients have circulating antibodies that cause cells in the blood that promote thrombosis to be activated. These antibodies bind to the surface of cells via a protein called beta2-glycoprotein 1.

Dr Ioannou added: "My planned research will focus on two key areas: to understand how these antibodies when binding to beta-2-glycoprotein 1 then go on to activate cells that line blood vessels, and to produce proteins that can block these antibodies - which could potentially be used therapeutically."