Platelets are formed and released into the bloodstream by precursor cells called megakaryocytes that reside within the bone marrow. The production of platelets by megakaryocytes requires an intricate series of remodeling events that result in the release of thousands of platelets from a single megakaryocyte. Abnormalities in this process can result in clinically significant disorders. Thrombocytopenia (platelet counts less than 150,000/microl) can lead to inadequate clot formation and increased risk of bleeding, while thrombocythemia (platelet counts greater than 600,000/microl) can heighten the risk for thrombotic events, including stroke, peripheral ischemia, and myocardial infarction. This Review will describe the process of platelet assembly in detail and discuss several disorders that affect platelet production.
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