Antibodies against platelet factor 4 and their associated pathologies: From HIT/HITT to spontaneous HIT-like syndrome, to COVID-19, to VITT/TTS

Emmanuel J. Favaloro, Leonardo Pasalic, Giuseppe Lippi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Abstract

Antibodies against platelet factor 4 (PF4), a protein released from alpha-granules of activated platelets, may cause a number of pathophysiological conditions. The most commonly known is heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), which develops in a small proportion of people treated with the anticoagulant drug heparin. Notably, PF4 binds with high affinity to heparin, and in HIT, complexes of PF4/H may, in a small proportion of susceptible patients, trigger the development of anti-PF4 antibodies and subsequent platelet activation and aggregation, ultimately leading to the development of pathological thrombosis at sites of vessel occlusion. Of more modern interest, antibodies against PF4 may also arise in patients with COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) or in patients who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, especially in recipients of adenovirus-based vaccines. For this latter group of patients, the terms VITT (vaccine-induced [immune] thrombotic thrombocytopenia) and TTS (thrombotic thrombocytopenia syndrome) have been coined. Another category associated with this pathophysiology comprises those in whom a precipitating event is not clear; this category is referred to as ‘spontaneous HIT-like syndrome’. Despite its name, it arises as an HIT-mimicking disorder but without antecedent heparin exposure. In this narrative review, we describe the development of antibodies against PF4, and associated pathophysiology, in such conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Number of pages13
JournalAntibodies
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2022

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