Mechanical forces impacting cleavage of Von Willebrand factor in laminar and turbulent blood flow

Alireza Sharifi, David Bark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Von Willebrand factor (VWF) is a large multimeric hemostatic protein. VWF is critical in arresting platelets in regions of high shear stress found in blood circulation. Excessive cleavage of VWF that leads to reduced VWF multimer size in plasma can cause acquired von Willebrand syndrome, which is a bleeding disorder found in some heart valve diseases and in patients receiving mechanical circulatory support. It has been proposed that hemodynamics (blood flow) found in these environments ultimately leads to VWF cleavage. In the context of experiments reported in the literature, scission theory, developed for polymers, is applied here to provide insight into flow that can produce strong extensional forces on VWF that leads to domain unfolding and exposure of a cryptic site for cleavage through a metalloproteinase. Based on theoretical tensile forces, laminar flow only enables VWF cleavage when shear rate is large enough (>2800 s-1) or when VWF is exposed to constant shear stress for nonphysiological exposure times (>20 min). Predicted forces increase in turbulence, increasing the chance for VWF cleavage. These findings can be used when designing blood-contacting medical devices by providing hemodynamic limits to these devices that can otherwise lead to acquired von Willebrand syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number67
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Acquired von willebrand syndrome
  • Cleavage
  • Elongational flow
  • Shear
  • Turbulence
  • Von willebrand factor
  • Vwf


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