LONDON, Jan 25 (BBC)--Scientists have found a potential way to prevent blood clots which can cause heart attacks.
They believe the discovery could aid the development of better heart attack prevention and treatment.
The key is to remove a particular protein - PKC alpha - from specialist blood cells called platelets which play a key role in the formation of clots.
The University of Bristol study, carried out in mice, appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Blood clots perform an essential function, limiting blood loss from a wound.
However, when they form in diseased arteries feeding the heart they can be life-threatening, causing a heart attack in 146,000 people in the UK every year.
Current anti-clotting medicines, such as aspirin, reduce the risk of heart attack - but in some people can also cause excessive and dangerous bleeding.
Platelets are small cells in the blood that sense when a blood vessel has been damaged.
They rapidly become very sticky, and form a protective plaster over the site of damage.
In a patient with heart disease, fatty plaques build up in the walls of the arteries feeding the heart.
If an artery ruptures the platelets clump together at the site of damage and can block the vessel, which can cause a heart attack.