There is growing data on the association between COPD and the presence and functioning of little cell fragments we all have in our blood called platelets. Platelets are part of our blood clotting system and are the first thing to plug up any wound to help stop the bleeding. Platelets adhere to blood vessels and participate in blood clot formation. That is why some of you take medications such as Plavix or simple aspirin. These drugs slow down or inhibit the function of your platelets to prevent them from clogging up you coronary stents, for example.

I thought platelets were primarily produced in our bone marrow, but I now find that data shows that the cells that produce platelets, called megakaryocytes, are found in lungs and in the blood vessels of the lungs. The significance of this is important because these small cell fragments only survive about 8-10 days and need to be replaced by 100 billion daily to maintain an adequate level in the blood. This means that there are a lot of platelets being produced in the lung tissue.

The concern in COPD is that these little fragments are affected by inflammation and smoking, both of which increase the amount of platelets. These platelets then may deposit in the capillaries of the lung, and over time, obstruct blood flow. Additionally, they have been found to be associated with metabolic processes that accelerated lung disease such as emphysema.

The jury is still out, but using aspirin in COPD may become necessary.