Much attention has recently been focused on the interaction between unusually large von Willebrand factor multimers (UL-VWFM) and platelets under high shear stress in pathological thrombus formation. The antiplatelet drugs acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) and a thienopyridine derivative (ticlopidine) are commonly used to treat cerebral ischemia but exert different effects on high-shear-stress-induced platelet aggregation (H-SIPA) in the plasma. To examine the effects of these drugs in the absence of plasma factors, we studied H-SIPA using washed platelets (WPs) and purified UL-VWFM. WPs were prepared from the blood of 9 aspirin-treated and 11 ticlopidine-treated patients with cerebral ischemia, and H-SIPA in the presence of UL-VWFM was measured using a cone plate aggregometer. Plasma levels of VWF antigen with its multimer analysis, ristocetin cofactor and VWF-cleaving protease (ADAMTS13) activity were also measured. Forty-six healthy volunteers from 2 age groups, 20–40 years (n = 20) and 41–60 years old (n = 26), were also tested as controls. H-SIPA was significantly inhibited for ticlopidine-treated platelets, but it was observed to a lesser extent for aspirin-treated platelets. For both groups, no difference in the plasma levels of VWF antigen, ristocetin cofactor and ADAMTS13 activity was noted. All patients possessed UL-VWFM, and it was detected in healthy volunteers with increasing frequency with increasing age. Under plasma-free conditions, platelets from aspirin-treated patients exhibit marginal but significant inhibition of H-SIPA. Furthermore, the presence of UL-VWFM in the plasma of patients and normal volunteers is directly related to their age rather than being a consequence of underlying disease.

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