A tick's spit leads to an entire lesson in blood clotting

There really is such a thing as tick spit – that is, the saliva of a tick. And there's something about it that might help fight heart disease and stroke.

The link comes from a protein found in the spit of ixodes (ik-SO-deez) ticks, which are also known as blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks.

These kinds of ticks tear their way into skin and feed on their host's blood for several days. They damage small blood vessels, which would normally trigger the body to start a process called coagulation – or blood clotting.

Clotting is important because it stops bleeding. But it also can play a role in heart attacks and strokes.

That leads back to the ticks, and their spitting.

These ticks spit where they bite their host. In doing so, they project a protein that blocks the body's natural clotting process; it happens similar to the way – or "anticoagulants" – work.

The new thing researchers have learned is that the two clotting factors, called factor X and factor V, that get blocked by the tick spit end up working together and activating a third clotting element, so the clotting eventually happens.

Scientists already knew which coagulation factors are able to activate Factor V but they didn't know that factor X was extremely important in this process.

Thanks to these ticks – and their spit – we have a better understanding of the clotting process.

The result is a new model for , which is an important discovery for our understanding of how clots are formed, why certain anti-clotting drugs help and how could be developed.

Imagine all that information from those little ticks, and their spit.

More information: Anti-clotting agents explained - www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/LifeAfterStroke/HealthyLivingAfterStroke/ManagingMedicines/Anti-Clotting-Agents-Explained_UCM_310452_Article.jsp

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers find key to blood-clotting process

Jun 26, 2013

Researchers, including Professor Alastair Poole and Dr Matthew Harper from the University of Bristol's School of Physiology and Pharmacology, have uncovered a key process in understanding how blood clots ...

Reasons for severe bleeding in hemophilia revealed

Nov 20, 2012

New insights into what causes uncontrollable bleeding in hemophilia patients are provided in a study published by Cell Press on November 20th in the Biophysical Journal. By revealing that blood clots spread in traveling waves ...

Ticking along

Apr 23, 2013

It may be slighter later than expected but spring finally seems to be upon us. Unfortunately, this also means the start of the tick season, both for humans and for their pets. But when exactly is the risk ...

Recommended for you

Gene variant raises risk for aortic tear and rupture

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers from Yale School of Medicine and Celera Diagnostics have confirmed the significance of a genetic variant that substantially increases the risk of a frequently fatal thoracic aortic dissection or full rupture. ...

Considerable variation in CT use in ischemic stroke

Apr 17, 2014

(HealthDay)—For patients with ischemic stroke there is considerable variation in the rates of high-intensity computed tomography (CT) use, according to a study published online April 8 in Circulation: Ca ...

Beating the clock for ischemic stroke sufferers

Apr 17, 2014

A ground-breaking computer technology raises hope for people struck by ischemic stroke, which is a very common kind of stroke accounting for over 80 per cent of overall stroke cases. Developed by research experts at The Hong ...

User comments