Understanding Thrombin and Hemostasis
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Unlike other factors in blood coagulation and fibrinolysis, thrombin has several functions in hemostasis from injury to recovery. Because of continual consumption, thrombin generation controls prethrombotic thrombin functions and may be prevented by inactivation of its precursors or by inhibition of thrombin-mediated amplification steps. The direct activation product of prothrombin, alpha-thrombin, not only converts fibrinogen into clottable fibrin but also is actively incorporated into the forming thrombus, where it is protected and transformed into other or inactive forms with thrombus maturation. Larger protein inhibitors, such as antithrombin III, cannot penetrate the thrombus, whereas hirudin and small thrombin inhibitors can. Unique structural features of thrombin allow the design and synthesis of a variety of small inhibitors. Such small inhibitors may prevent rethrombosis upon lysis of immature thrombi. On the other hand, such intervention must be used with caution, because low levels of thrombin appear to promote wound healing. In this regard, the scars of healing are but manifestations of the many functions of thrombin.
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