BACKGROUND: Cell derived MPs are small membrane vesicles released during cell activation or apoptosis. They express an inside-out membrane, which exposes the negatively charged phospholipid layer outside, allowing clotting factors to be anchored and generate thrombin. Among various species of MPs, RMP (red cell MPs), PMP (platelet MPs), LMP (leukocytes), EMP (endothelial cells) are of special interest. They play an important role in hemostasis, thromboses, and inflammation. MPs mirror early injury of parent cells and are sensitive early biomarkers of underlying disorders.

TTP is a microangiopathy mediated by antibody-induced depletion of ADAMTS13, a von Willebrand factor-cleaving protease. Endothelial injury promotes platelet clumping and formation of platelet rich microthrombi in the microcirculation. Subsequent platelet sequestration leads to impaired microcirculation, thrombocytopenia and red cell fragmentation with a microangiopathic hemolytic anemia. Exchange plasmapheresis (EPP) is the standard therapy. It removes antibodies to ADAMTS13, replacing it with ADAMTS13 rich plasma. It is possible that EPP removes thrombogenic MPs to improve the clinical course of TTP. In this study, we investigated MP profiles in active and remission phase of TTP and the effect of EPP on MP profiles. We also aimed to determine if MP profiles may be a useful measure for monitoring clinical course and tracking progress of therapy.

METHODS: A retrospective study was conducted evaluating MP assays in patients with TTP. MP profiles were reviewed in acute and remission phases of TTP. Acute phase was defined as thrombocytopenia, clinical evidence of microangiopathy and hemolytic anemia and low ADAMTS13 activity. Remission was defined as sustained normalization of laboratory parameters and no further microangiopathy for at least one month. Patients were studied longitudinally, with MP assays before and after EPP. EMP were measured by CD31+/CD42b− (EMP31), CD62E+ (EMP62); PMP by CD31+/CD42b+ (PMP42) and CD41+ (PMP41). All were measured in platelet-poor plasma by flow cytometry. All MP data are presented in units of x105/µL. The differences in MP patterns among TTP patients in active and remission phases of disease, as well as the effect of EPP on MP profiles were assessed.

RESULTS: Among 20 patients with TTP, 8 (40%) were in acute phase and 12 (60%) in remission. An average of 10.7 EPP were performed. The average platelet count prior to EPP was 50.6x103/µL, which increased to 248 x103/µL following the last EPP. ADAMTS13 activity was generally <10% at the onset.

For patients in the acute phase, PMPs were low: PMP41 0.32 (±0.11), PMP42 3.11 (±2.56), but consistently increased following EPP to the point of statistical significance at the last treatment: PMP41 1.26 (±0.71), p=0.005 and PMP42 7.65 (±5.03), p=0.039. Moreover, levels were higher in the remission phase for both PMPs, but only statistically significant for PMP41: 1.39, p=0.034.

Conversely, EMP62E was initially elevated on presentation, but declined with successive EPP: 6.07 (±3.02) prior to initiation of EPP to 4.5 (±3.1) upon the last day of EPP. Furthermore, this pattern continued into remission, with EMP62E of 2.72 (±2.11), p=0.009. Similar to the trend in EMP62E, RMP was elevated in the acute phase (25.1 [±18.5]) before steadily declining with EPP (19.65 [±12.53]). This progressive drop in RMP persisted for those in remission phase of TTP 10 (±5.42), p=0.015.

DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: Taken collectively, cell derived MP's were found to reflect disease activity and response to therapy.

There was a linear correlation between PMP levels and platelet count. Low PMPs in the acute phase reflects the initial thrombocytopenia characteristic of TTP. When EPP was initiated, the disease improved and there was a rise in PMP which mirrored the rise in platelets. This rise was sustained in the remission phase.

Conversely, EMP62E and RMP are increased in acute phase TTP due to endothelial activation, microthrombi deposition and red cell fragmentation. After EPP the disease is quiescent, hence the progressive decline of EMP62E and RMP.

These results show promising utility of cell derived MP profiles as a clinical tool to surveil chronic TTP patients and to predict disease relapse at an early stage. After EPP is initiated, change in MP Profiles may be used to monitor response to therapy and determine the appropriate time to wean EPP.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.