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Diagnosing platelet disorders

Platelet disorders are frequently overlooked or misdiagnosed and can cause abnormal bleeding or bruising.

Micrograph of platelet taken on a TEM at the University of New South Wales

Dr Tim Brighton from the South Eastern Area Laboratory Services Haematology Unit, at Prince of Wales Hospital wants to diagnose them more accurately, but this is difficult with standard histological techniques. Morphological and ultrastructural examination of platelets with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) would be very useful but very few centres utilise TEM techniques on a routine basis in the diagnosis of platelet disorders.

With the assistance of Jenny Norman from Microscopy Australia at the University of New South Wales, Dr Brighton is establishing diagnostic TEM techniques for these platelet disorders. Platelet Storage Pool Deficiency (SPD) is a particular focus and is characterised by a deficiency of dense bodies within the platelets. These bodies contain compounds essential for fulfilling the blood functions of platelets and are electron opaque, making them easily detected by TEM. Dr Brighton has now used his technique to identify several patients with bleeding disorders who were found to have varying deficiencies of these platelet dense bodies.