Low molecular weight (LMW) heparin prevents venous thrombosis by potentiating the inhibition of coagulation factor Xa. Heparin, however, has other biological properties whose role in the prevention of thrombosis is still unknown. The aim of our study was to compare the antithrombotic activity of a LMW heparin and its parent molecule in an attempt to understand better the mechanism and structural requirements for heparin's antithrombotic effect. We studied a preparation of an unfractionated pig mucosal heparin pure by any accepted criteria (electrophoresis in various systems, conductimetric titration and NMR spectra) and a LMW heparin fraction obtained from the former by fractional precipitation with ethanol. Both heparins completely prevented thrombus formation in an experimental model of stasis-induced venous thrombosis in rats. When administered intravenously to rats, the unfractionated heparin had an ex vivo anti-Xa/APTT ratio of 1.67, versus 6.60 of the LMW heparin fraction. Unexpectedly, both heparins induced a significant prolongation of tail bleeding time, performed by two different techniques, the "transaction" (mostly exploring blood clotting) and the "template" (exploring the platelet/vessel wall interactions). This study suggests that, beside anticoagulation, other effects may play a role in both the antithrombotic and haemorrhagic effects of some heparins and LMW heparin fractions.
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