Advances in understanding pathogenic mechanisms of thrombophilic disorders

Björn Dahlbäck


Venous thromboembolism is a major medical problem, annually affecting 1 in 1000 individuals. It is a typical multifactorial disease, involving both genetic and circumstantial risk factors that affect a delicate balance between procoagulant and anticoagulant forces. In the last 50 years, the molecular basis of blood coagulation and the anticoagulant systems that control it have been elucidated. This has laid the foundation for discoveries of both common and rare genetic traits that tip the natural balance in favor of coagulation, with a resulting lifelong increased risk of venous thrombosis. Multiple mutations in the genes for anticoagulant proteins such as antithrombin, protein C, and protein S have been identified and constitute important risk factors. Two single mutations in the genes for coagulation factor V (FV Leiden) and prothrombin (20210G>A), resulting from approximately 20 000-year-old mutations with subsequent founder effects, are common in the general population and constitute major genetic risk factors for thrombosis. In celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the American Society of Hematology, this invited review highlights discoveries that have contributed to our present understanding of the systems that control blood coagulation and the genetic factors that are involved in the pathogenesis of venous thrombosis.

  • Submitted January 14, 2008.
  • Accepted February 19, 2008.
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