Introduction: The Von Willebrand Factor (VWF), is a very large glycoprotein present in human plasma essential for normal thrombus formation at sites of vascular injury. Blood coagulation is initiated by exposure of vessel wall components, e.g. collagen, followed by platelet tethering, activation and adhesion leading to the formation of a stable clot. All steps of blood coagulation occur in flowing blood under various conditions depending on vessel size. It is important to assess the function of a VWF concentrate under physiologic conditions. Under static or low shear conditions, platelets can bind directly to collagen without assistance of VWF, while the VWF is essential for mediation of platelet adhesion under high flow occurring in the arterial circulation. It has been assumed that multimer size plays an important role in this binding and in subsequent platelet adhesion. In this study we evaluated the binding of VWF of different multimeric structures to collagen and determined VWF-mediated platelet binding under low to high shear rates in a flow chamber model.

Methods: A flow-chamber coated with human collagen was developed to mimic physiological flow conditions. A high purity VWF/factor VIII (FVIII) concentrate (Wilate®) and two other VWF/FVIII concentrates were tested at shear rates of 400 1700 and 4000 s−1 reproducing shear rates occurring in veins, small arteries and capillaries. Collagen-bound VWF was characterized by antigen determination (VWF:Ag) and multimer (MM) analysis. Binding of labeled platelets was visualized by a fluorescence microscope and surface coverage was quantified.

Results: All VWF MMs independent of MM size were found to bind to collagen even under high shear rates. The amount of collagen-bound VWF:Ag and VWF-mediated platelet adhesion at 1700 s−1 differed significantly between the tested concentrates, when equal VWF:Ag amounts were applied.

Conclusion: Binding of VWF to collagen does not depend on VWF MM size in this model even when measured under high shear rates. The differences in collagen-bound VWF:Ag and VWF-mediated platelet binding do not seem to depend on the VWF MM distribution of the concentrates. Other structural features than VWF MM size may likely be caused by the differences seen in the binding levels of the different concentrates and should be further explored. Possible differences between VWF activity assays performed under static or flow conditions and their appropriate use for VWD diagnosis and quantification of in-vivo activity need to be further investigated.

Author notes

Disclosure:Employment: Drs. Schwartz, Fuchs, Fisseau and Kannicht are employees of Octapharma. Consultancy: Dr. Kessler is a clinical and scientific consultant to Octapharma. Membership Information: Dr. Kessler is a on the clinical and scientific advisory board of Octapharma.