Progress has occurred in the past several years in the understanding of the structure and function of von Willebrand factor (vWF). This multimeric glycoprotein exhibits a dual role, that of mediating platelet adhesion and aggregation onto thrombogenic surfaces, and that of functioning as carrier in plasma for the factor VIII procoagulant protein. New insights into the nature of the several functional domains of vWF have led to the identification of the regions of the molecule that interact with factor VIII, heparin, the glycoprotein lb of platelets, and collagen. Alterations of vWF are the cause of von Willebrand disease (vWD), a congenital bleeding disorder. In the majority of patients, the plasma levels of vWF are decreased, but there is no demonstrable structural or functional alteration of the protein. In other patients, however, the structure of vWF is abnormal. This review summarizes the current knowledge on vWF and vWD.

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