von Willebrand factor: an emerging target in stroke therapy

Stroke. 2012 Feb;43(2):599-606. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.628867. Epub 2011 Dec 15.


Thrombus formation is of paramount importance in the pathophysiology of acute ischemic stroke. Current antithrombotics used to treat or prevent cerebral ischemia are only moderately effective or bear an increased risk of severe bleeding. von Willebrand factor (VWF) has long been known to be a key player in thrombus formation at sites of vascular damage. While the association between VWF and coronary heart disease has been well studied, knowledge about the role of VWF in stroke is much more limited. However, in recent years, an increasing amount of clinical and preclinical evidence has revealed the critical involvement of VWF in stroke development. This review summarizes the latest insights into the pathophysiologic role of VWF-related processes in ischemic brain injury under experimental conditions and in humans. Potential clinical merits of novel inhibitors of VWF-mediated platelet adhesion and activation as powerful and safe tools to combat thromboembolic disorders including ischemic stroke are discussed. Preclinical and clinical evidence illustrates an important role of VWF in ischemic stroke, suggesting that VWF could become a promising target in stroke therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ADAM Proteins / physiology
  • ADAMTS13 Protein
  • Blood Platelets / drug effects
  • Blood Platelets / physiology
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / pharmacology
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Hemostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / therapy
  • Intracranial Thrombosis / pathology
  • Intracranial Thrombosis / therapy
  • Stroke / drug therapy
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • von Willebrand Factor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • von Willebrand Factor / drug effects
  • von Willebrand Factor / physiology*


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • von Willebrand Factor
  • ADAM Proteins
  • ADAMTS13 Protein
  • ADAMTS13 protein, human