Collaborating in Discovery
Cardiovascular, blood research on common ground
Peter Newman, PhD, (center) confers with researcher Taisuke Kanaji, MD, PhD, (right) in the Blood Research Institute laboratories. Also at work (L-R) are Blood Research Institute staff Ibrahim Vazirabad, Joerg Kellerman, MD, and postdoctoral fellow Sneha Rani, PhD.
The expertise of The Medical College of Wisconsin and BloodCenter of Wisconsin intuitively intersect at the point of innovative cardiovascular research. The value of their partnership is evident in the research of Peter J. Newman, PhD, who has a foot in both worlds as Vice President for Research at the BloodCenter and as a Professor at the Medical College.
Dr. Newman’s lab in the BloodCenter’s Blood Research Institute studies platelets, cells that act as a natural bandage for blood vessels. If blood vessels become damaged, the disc-shaped platelets inflate and become adhesive. When platelets work properly, they flock to the damaged location and fill in the breach until the damage is controlled.
If platelets function improperly, a bleeding disorder results. If platelets function in excess, dangerous blood clots may form. It is a delicate balance, but research at the molecular level is offering insight into the clotting process that has implications for both types of inherited conditions.
More than 11 million Americans have one of several inherited clotting disorders, known as thrombophilia. Clots are the most common cause of stroke, which is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and Wisconsin. Von Willebrand disease is the most common genetic bleeding disorder, affecting more than 2 million people in the United States. Hemophilia is a rare bleeding disorder, disproportionately affecting males, with about 20,000 cases in the U.S.
To address these health issues, Dr. Newman is researching what regulates how blood vessels and platelets react to injury. Molecules on the surface of the cells and interior walls of blood vessels help signal the activation and deactivation of platelet response. Platelets can even recruit other platelets to a site. Knowing precisely how these processes work could pave the way for drug development and future therapies for various bleeding and clotting disorders.
Dr. Newman’s platelet research is part of a joint interdisciplinary Vascular Cell and Molecular Biology Program connecting the resources of the Medical College’s Cardiovascular Center and the Blood Research Institute. By merging the Cardiovascular Center’s expertise in blood vessel physiology and hypertension with the Blood Research Institute’s expertise in bleeding and clotting, collaborative research teams can make meaningful progress on many pressing disorders of the blood and vascular system.
In all, more than 40 Medical College and Blood Research Institute investigators collaborate to conduct research. Collaboration between the institutions is so strong that when the BloodCenter built the Blood Research Institute in 1991, it chose to locate the facility next door to the Medical College so they could share their respective tools, technologies and talent.
Dr. Newman is Vice President for Research at BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Associate Director of the Blood Research Institute, Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology and of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy at the Medical College, as well as former Associate Director of the College’s Cardiovascular Center.