There is increasing research on and clinical interest in the physiological role played by platelet microparticles (PMPs). PMPs are 0.1-1-μm fragments shed from plasma membranes of platelets that are undergoing activation, stress, or apoptosis. They have a phospholipid-based structure and express functional receptors from platelet membranes. As they are the most abundant microparticles in the blood and they express the procoagulant phosphatidylserine, PMPs likely complement, if not amplify, the functions of platelets in hemostasis, thrombosis, cancer, and inflammation, but also act as promoters of tissue regeneration. Their size and structure make them instrumental in platelet-cell communications as a delivery tool of platelet-borne bioactive molecules including growth factors, other signaling molecules and micro (mi)RNA. PMPs can therefore be a pathophysiological threat or benefit to the cellular environment when interacting with the blood vasculature. There is also increasing evidence that PMP generation is triggered during blood collection, separation into components, and storage, a phenomenon potentially leading to thrombotic and inflammatory side effects in transfused patients. Evaluating PMPs requires strict pre-analytical and analytical procedures to avoid artifactual generation and ensure accurate assessment of the number, size repartitioning, and functional properties. This review describes the physical and functional methods developed for analyzing and quantifying PMPs. It then presents the functional roles of PMPs as markers or triggers of diseases like thrombosis, atherosclerosis, and cancer, and discusses the possible detrimental immunological impact of their generation in blood components. Finally we review the potential function of PMPs in tissue regeneration and the prospects for their use in therapeutic strategies for human health.
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