Platelet biology and functions: new concepts and clinical perspectives

Nat Rev Cardiol. 2019 Mar;16(3):166-179. doi: 10.1038/s41569-018-0110-0.


Platelets - blood cells continuously produced from megakaryocytes mainly in the bone marrow - are implicated not only in haemostasis and arterial thrombosis, but also in other physiological and pathophysiological processes. This Review describes current evidence for the heterogeneity in platelet structure, age, and activation properties, with consequences for a diversity of platelet functions. Signalling processes of platelet populations involved in thrombus formation with ongoing coagulation are well understood. Genetic approaches have provided information on multiple genes related to normal haemostasis, such as those encoding receptors and signalling or secretory proteins, that determine platelet count and/or responsiveness. As highly responsive and secretory cells, platelets can alter the environment through the release of growth factors, chemokines, coagulant factors, RNA species, and extracellular vesicles. Conversely, platelets will also adapt to their environment. In disease states, platelets can be positively primed to reach a pre-activated condition. At the inflamed vessel wall, platelets interact with leukocytes and the coagulation system, interactions mediating thromboinflammation. With current antiplatelet therapies invariably causing bleeding as an undesired adverse effect, novel therapies can be more beneficial if directed against specific platelet responses, populations, interactions, or priming conditions. On the basis of these novel concepts and processes, we discuss several initiatives to target platelets therapeutically.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Coagulation / drug effects*
  • Blood Coagulation / genetics
  • Blood Platelets / drug effects*
  • Blood Platelets / immunology
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism
  • Hemorrhage / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Platelet Activation / drug effects*
  • Platelet Activation / genetics
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction
  • Thrombosis / drug therapy*
  • Thrombosis / genetics
  • Thrombosis / immunology
  • Thrombosis / metabolism


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors