- The pathophysiology of the platelet thrombotic disorder, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), is not well understood. Two apparently unrelated laboratory abnormalities have recently been described in patients with TTP: a platelet aggregating factor and abnormalities in von Willebrand factor (vWF). Although an interaction between these two abnormalities has been postulated to participate in the disease, this has not been proved. In this report we describe studies on a patient with relapsing TTP. These studies demonstrate that a consistent relationship exists between the platelet aggregating factor present in the patient's serum and vWF. The patient had chronic low-grade thrombocytopenic and schistocytic haemolytic anaemia that could be temporarily cured by infusions of plasma and certain other blood products. During acute exacerbations of the illness, a platelet aggregating factor was detectable in the patient's serum and this was associated with the loss of the larger multimers of vWF. During remissions of the illness, abnormally large multimers of vWF were present. The results of this study support the concept that a platelet aggregating factor plus large multimers of vWF participate in the acute platelet thrombi that characterize TTP.