Developing novel anti-platelet strategies is fundamental to reducing the impact of thrombotic diseases. Thrombin activates platelets via proteinase-activated receptors (PARs), and PAR antagonists are being evaluated in clinical trials for prevention of arterial thrombosis. However, one such trial was recently suspended due to increased bleeding in patients receiving a PAR₁ antagonist in addition to anti-platelet drugs that most often included both aspirin and clopidogrel. Therefore, it remains unclear how to best manipulate PARs for safe antithrombotic activity. To address this, we have examined potential interactions between existing anti-platelet drugs and strategies that target PARs.
We used in vivo mouse models in which interactions between various anti-platelet strategies could be evaluated. We examined the effects on thrombosis and haemostasis in PAR₄ -/- mice (platelets unresponsive to thrombin) treated with therapeutic doses of either aspirin or clopidogrel.
Using a model in which occlusive thrombosis occurred in PAR₄ -/- mice or wild-type mice treated with aspirin or clopidogrel, PAR₄ -/- mice treated with either anti-platelet agent showed marked protection against thrombosis. This antithrombotic effect occurred without any effect on haemostasis with aspirin, but not clopidogrel. Furthermore, specifically targeting thrombin-induced platelet activation (via PARs) improved the therapeutic window of non-specifically inhibiting thrombin functions (via anticoagulants).
Conclusions and implications
Our results indicate that PAR antagonists used in combination with aspirin provide a potent yet safe antithrombotic strategy in mice and provide insights into the safety and efficacy of using PAR antagonists for the prevention of acute coronary syndromes in humans.