According to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital, cats exposed to burns and smoke from urban California wildfires are more likely to develop fatal blood clots. The study, recently published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, follows up on earlier findings that cats affected by urban wildfires have more heart problems.
“Before these two papers, we didn’t realize that cats injured in urban wildfires were at risk of blood clots, which could lead to sudden death,” said Ronald Lee, associate professor of small animal emergency and critical care. “This research will change the standard of care given to cats rescued from these wildfires and hopefully save more lives,” said UC Davis. Overactive platelets
Cats treated for injuries sustained in the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California were some of the models for this study. Researchers have studied the platelets cells that circulate in the blood and stop bleeding or form blood clots. Wildfire-damaged cats have increased overactive platelets compared to healthy cats or cats with heart disease, in this case subclinical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM. HCM is the most common heart disease in cats and causes thickening of the heart muscle. “Cats with HCM are more likely to clot, which means they are more likely to develop blood clots,” said lead co-author Ava Tan, a veterinary research fellow who currently works in Lee’s lab. “That’s why we used them as a control group to compare with the cats in the wildfire group.”
The platelets of wildfire-damaged cats released large amounts of microvesicles, proteins that look like microscopic membranous bubbles, which are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots. “We found that cats exposed to wildfire smoke and lesions were more prone to clot formation, indicating a link between wildfire injury, platelet response, and clot formation.”
In addition to blood clotting, platelets have many connections to overall cardiovascular health and disease. The research has identified a novel receptor, Toll-like-receptor-4, on cat platelets that may play a role in blood clotting and could be a target for future therapies. “These results have major health implications for our patients and highlight the important role that platelets play in linking inflammation to the coagulation system,” Lee said.
Effects on Human Health Wildfires also pose a significant risk to humans. Emergency room visits increase due to heart attacks and strokes after exposure to wild animals. Although the underlying mechanism is unknown in humans, this study in cats may shed light on systemic platelet function, which plays an important role in mediating the risk of blood clots due to wildfire injury.
“This study opens a new door to see how wildfires affect cardiovascular health in humans,” he said. The researchers were able to use blood samples collected from cats brought from the campfire for treatment, and these two studies are still used today. This research led to a third study in progress to find new cellular processes that may explain why platelets are so sensitive and prone to clotting, especially in cats with heart disease or wildfire damage. The information gathered is critical to developing early treatment plans, Lee said. (ANI)
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