Research in Birmingham could help provide a new treatment for potentially deadly blood clots in the legs.
A study, funded by the British Heart Foundation and carried out at the University of Birmingham, has discovered that common anti-allergy drugs could help people prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
The researchers found that mice genetically depleted of mast cells, a type of immune cell, are protected from developing DVT.
In the study, published in Circulation Research, the researchers ‘turned off’ the gene that is responsible for producing the cells and found that the mice which were deficient in them were protected from DVT. They also found that those mice had normal haemostasis, tackling the bleeding side-effects possible with treatments such as warfarin.
The University of Birmingham team now hope to validate their findings by using human blood samples. If the results are positive it could mean that mast cell inhibitors, which are already approved for treatment of some allergic diseases such as asthma, could quickly move into clinical trials.
Dr Alex Brill, of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Birmingham, said: “These findings offer new hope for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis without a risk of bleeding.
“If further human studies support our findings in mice, drugs to block mast cell production could be used in the future alongside lower doses of anticoagulants such as warfarin, significantly reducing bleeding risk.
“This is particularly exciting because this is a group of drugs which already exists, and some forms are approved for the treatment of allergies, meaning that this discovery could help people with DVT sooner rather than later.”
DVT currently affects around 60,000 people in the UK each year and can be caused by prolonged spells of not moving, such as after surgery or a long flight.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s far too soon to suggest people should start taking anti-allergy tablets to prevent DVT, but this exciting discovery may pave the way for new treatments, and reduce some of the bleeding side effects which come with anticoagulants such as warfarin.
“However further research is needed to show that the same protective effect can be seen in humans.”