Book Review


  • Paolo Gresele

Platelets and Megakaryocytes – Functional Assays , Volume 1. J.M.Gibbins, M.P.Mahaut-Smith ( Eds ) Humana Press , Totowa, New Jersey, USA July 2004 , 380 pages , 7 colour plates , ISBN: 1588291014

Platelets and Megakaryocytes – Perspectives and Techniques , Volume 2. J.M.Gibbins, M.P.Mahaut-Smith ( Eds ) Humana Press , Totowa, New Jersey, USA February 2005 , 503 pages , 5 colour plates , ISBN: 1588290115

There has been a resurgence of interest in platelets in scientific book publishing over the last few years, that parallels the real explosion of basic and applied research involving these blood elements, one of the most extensively investigated biological cell types.

This book aims to cover all the available methods to study blood platelets by adopting an ‘how to’ approach.

The book is organized into two volumes, the first concerning functional assays and the second perspectives and techniques, which include in total 56 chapters. The five sections of the whole opera deal with platelet functional assays, megakaryocyte functional assays, perspectives, signaling techniques and molecular and post-genomic techniques.

The subjects of the different chapters range from the ‘old-fashioned’ platelet counting methods to the most advanced molecular biology techniques such as the manipulation of gene expression in megakaryocytes, the use of antisense oligonucleotides, or the application of gene array technology to the study of platelets and megakaryocytes.

Each chapter is organized into a short introductory section, giving a general overview of the fields of application of the specific technique discussed, followed by a strictly methodological section, subdivided into materials and methods; sometimes the chapters also contain a final discussion or some general conclusions and a series of more or less detailed technical notes reporting ‘tips and tricks’ and additional explanations on the methods described or on the equipments. A few key references are also given.

While this is the general format to which the authors were bound to, inequalities between the chapters exist both for as concerns their length and for the layout itself. Moreover, while some chapters are strictly methodological, a real ‘cook-book’ with practically no comments on the possible applications, advantages and limitations of the methodology described, others give a more general discussion of the different methods and indications about possible applications, and still other chapters, essentially all the perspectives, are simply general reviews.

All the book is enjoyable, but particularly interesting or useful are some chapters. In particular, of great practical help for every-day laboratory work applied to the clinics are the group of chapters on the different methodologies for the study of platelet aggregation (effect of anticoagulants, preparation of washed platelet suspensions, turbidimetric or impedance methods), on platelet adhesion (static and dynamic assays) or on the PFA100. Chapters useful for research laboratories interested in platelet function testing are those on the permeabilization of platelets and their secretory function, on the use of snake venoms affecting platelet function or on peptides used for the study of platelet-collagen interactions. Interesting and in part novel for the ‘traditional’ platelet researcher is the entire section on megakaryocyte functional assays, which gives many helpful indications on the experimental use of a remarkable cell which, in many respects, can be considered as a large nucleated platelet.

A group of 69 leading experts from the USA, Europe, Australia, and Japan form the distinguished panel of authors of this manual.

The book is very useful and timely, as it fills a gap in medical publishing (one previous book specifically devoted to platelet methods dates back to more than a decade ago), and provides researchers interested in platelets with a handy and detailed guide to the different techniques that may sooner or later turn out to be needed for their daily work, therefore it should find its place in the bookshelf of each laboratory involved in platelet research.

Given the width of the studies on platelets, it is not surprising that even in such an extensive book some topics are missing, like the techniques for studying platelet auto/allo antibodies, the new point-of-care platelet analyzers (e.g., the Ultegra RPFA), shear-induced platelet activation by viscosimetry, etc. When looking in detail at specific chapters, in Chapter 3, Vol. 1, the description of the Bürker chamber and the relative method for platelet counting is missing; Chapter 5, Vol. 1, dealing with the turbidimetric measurement of platelet aggregation, does not comment on the need of adjustment of platelet counts in platelet-rich plasma and on the best method to do it or on the platelet agonists to be used for clinical testing; Chapter 4, Vol. 2, on the pharmacologic approaches to studying platelet function, does not discuss the tools to assess the role of cAMP and cGMP; Chapter 19, Vol. 2, does not deal with the methods to study calcium influx as opposed to intraplatelet calcium release; Chapter 27, Vol. 2, which deals with the preparation of mRNA and cDNA libraries from platelets and megakaryocytes, would benefit from the inclusion of examples on the possible applications of those libraries.

A few limitations of the book are the insufficient clinical view, providing scanty indications on the use of the different assays for the study of patients; the fact that sometimes the titles of the chapters are misleading because they seem to give an overview on the different techniques to measure a certain platelet parameter, but in fact they describe only one very specific assay, overlooking other related methods; the rather condensed analytical index, of little practical help; the binding of the book, which is not solid enough for a book of frequent consultation like this, so that very soon book pages start to come off; the fact that iconography is very poor, and sometimes completely absent.

Despite these shortcomings, this methodological book is certainly useful as it helps to transform in actual experiments a number of projects or ideas that may come to the mind of researchers interested in platelets and, overall, it will set the standard in platelet techniques and it will last long as a consultation manual.