Single-platelet nanomechanics measured by high-throughput cytometry

Nat Mater. 2017 Feb;16(2):230-235. doi: 10.1038/nmat4772. Epub 2016 Oct 10.


Haemostasis occurs at sites of vascular injury, where flowing blood forms a clot, a dynamic and heterogeneous fibrin-based biomaterial. Paramount in the clot's capability to stem haemorrhage are its changing mechanical properties, the major drivers of which are the contractile forces exerted by platelets against the fibrin scaffold. However, how platelets transduce microenvironmental cues to mediate contraction and alter clot mechanics is unknown. This is clinically relevant, as overly softened and stiffened clots are associated with bleeding and thrombotic disorders. Here, we report a high-throughput hydrogel-based platelet-contraction cytometer that quantifies single-platelet contraction forces in different clot microenvironments. We also show that platelets, via the Rho/ROCK pathway, synergistically couple mechanical and biochemical inputs to mediate contraction. Moreover, highly contractile platelet subpopulations present in healthy controls are conspicuously absent in a subset of patients with undiagnosed bleeding disorders, and therefore may function as a clinical diagnostic biophysical biomarker.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blood Coagulation / physiology*
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology*
  • Blood Platelets / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Hardness / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Platelet Activation / physiology*
  • Platelet Adhesiveness / physiology*