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American Society of Hematology awards Bridge Grant for platelet research

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Quinn Eastman

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) has awarded an ASH Bridge Grant to Renhao Li, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.

The grant will allow Li to seamlessly continue his research on blood platelets, which has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for 10 years.
"Recent federal financial constraints created a temporary funding gap that could have affected the ongoing work of my laboratory, the jobs of my research staff, and the continuity of our research discoveries," says Li. "I am very grateful for the ASH Bridge Grant, which is allowing us to continue our work to improve the utility of platelets and platelet therapy for patients while awaiting renewal of our NIH grant."
Li’s research is aimed at improving the condition and usability of stored platelets, understanding the mechanisms of thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), and developing therapeutics for blood disorders.
He and his colleagues recently discovered how platelets, which are responsible for blood clotting, sense and respond to blood flow at the molecular level, and how changes in physiological shear, or the force of flow, affect platelet function.
Li’s research focuses on a unique platelet receptor – the GPIb-IX complex, which plays an important role in platelet function. Li’s team has found how this receptor is activated by changes in blood flow, and that its signaling leads to clearance of platelets from the blood. By learning how to modulate GPIb-IX signaling using monoclonal antibodies, Li and his group are hoping to develop treatments for thrombocytopenia.
Treatment with these same monoclonal antibodies might also allow for longer storage of platelets needed for transfusion. Presently platelets can only be stored for five days, because GPIb-IX signaling appears to cause platelet clearance.
"Now that we have a better understanding of how platelets sense and respond to blood flow at a molecular level, we can develop better tools to modulate that activity in various kinds of blood disorders," says Li.
The American Society of Hematology is the world’s largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders. Their one-year, $150,000 Bridge Grants are designed to provide critical interim support for hematology research proposals that, despite earning high scores, could not be funded by the NIH due to severe funding reductions. Eleven ASH Bridge Grant recipients this year join 51 hematologists that have received funding since the program was created in 2012.
For a complete list of ASH Bridge Grant recipients, click here. To learn more about ASH’s Bridge Grant Program, click here.

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