The Italiano Lab has had a long-standing interest in identifying and characterizing the biochemical and molecular mechanisms underlying the production of platelets. Blood platelets function as the bandaids of the bloodstream. They are produced from giant precursor cells called megakaryocytes. Megakaryocytes generate platelets by remodeling their cytoplasm into long cytoplasmic extensions called proplatelets, which serve as assembly lines for platelet production. Dr. Italiano and his group have identified cytoskeletal pathways that are required for platelet biogenesis. They have demonstrated that platelet formation follows a defined set of morphogenetic shape changes driven by forces derived from both microtubules and actin filaments. Elucidation of the cell biological and signaling pathways that culminate in the formation of platelets should yield strategies for accelerating platelet counts in patients with thrombocytopenia.
In addition, the Italiano Lab has investigated the role of blood platelets in regulating new blood vessel development, or angiogenesis. They have established that pro- and anti-angiogenic regulatory proteins are stored in separate and distinct alpha-granules in platelets, and that these distinct populations of alpha-granules are susceptible to differential release. Significant efforts are now underway in the lab to identify the mechanisms by which angiogenic regulatory proteins are packaged into distinct granules and to establish the pathways that regulate their selective release. A better understanding of the mechanisms by which platelets regulate angiogenesis should yield strategies for pro- and anti-angiogenic therapy.
About Joseph E. Italiano Jr.
Joseph Italiano received a Ph.D. from Florida State University and completed a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital. He is the recipient of a number of NIH grants. His awards and honors include the American Society of Hematology Scholar Award and American Heart Foundation Scientist Development Grant.