FRIDAY, May 21, 2004 (HealthDayNews) --The blood cells known as platelets used to be known as the paramedics of the bloodstream, rushing to a wound to make sure healthy clotting occurred and no infection took place.
But platelets are starting to look more and more like the bad guys.
Researchers now believe platelets could be a cause of chronic inflammation, a condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to an article in the current issue of Blood.
On the up side, the researchers also found that a diabetes drug designed to make tissue more insulin-sensitive also cuts down on the bad effects of platelets.
"To use a spring yard work analogy, it's like realizing one day that although you've been using one tool on your lawn, another one hanging in your garage can dramatically contribute to the job, even though no one would suspect it," lead researcher Richard Phipps, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.
Doctors are not sure why some people suffer heart attacks even though they have no major heart blockages, but chronic inflammation is one of the main suspects. Many cardiovascular diseases are linked to inflammation, and scientists are racing to pinpoint which cells cause it.
The University of Birmingham has more about chronic inflammation.