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Babies with low blood platelet levels at greater risk of severe ROP

Experiments in mice reveal that injections of blood platelets reduce the pathological development of retinal vessels

A baby having its eye examined

Swedish and US researchers have investigated the connection between low blood platelet levels and a severe form of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

Describing their research in JCI Insight, the scientists highlight that experiments in mice carried out at Harvard Medical School found that transfusing platelets during the development of retinal vessels suppressed retinopathy.

Pathological vascular development declined by 19% in mice that received transfusions.

Conversely, lowering blood platelet levels through the use of antibodies increased pathological vascular development in the retina by 30%.

Observational studies involving 202 babies with ROP in Gothenburg and Sweden found a fourfold increase in risk of severe ROP among those with low levels of platelets.

The researchers highlight that the findings suggest a new avenue for treating premature infants at risk of ROP.

Study author, Professor Ann Hellstrom, of Gothenburg University, explained: "Purely hypothetically, it's conceivable that a transfusion of platelets could be administered to restore balance and calm everything down if there are signs of a growth of pathological blood vessels if the child is found to have low levels of platelets."

Image credit: Ann-Sofie Petersson