In the documentary "Blood Detectives," distributed without charge to organizations by the American Society of Hematology, we are introduced to Stephanie Jeske, a Hematology Fellow who is treating a patient suffering from a mysterious blood disease. We follow Jeske and her colleagues as they meet and treat various patients with blood disorders. Hematology is the study of the blood itself and the various cells and proteins that are found in the blood. "Blood Detectives" uses case studies and animations to show what can go wrong with these cells and the diseases that result. Three basic types of cells are found in the blood: red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets, which aren't truly cells, but fragments of larger cells that are found in the bone marrow called megakaryocytes.

Platelets begin the clotting process by adhering together around a wound, plugging it until a permanent clot can form. The first case involves a young man with TTP, or Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. The term penia- means "lack of." Thombo- refers to clotting. The term Thombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura sounds like an oxymoron, but it means that the platelets that form these spontaneous clots are not available for clot formation elsewhere. TTP patients form spontaneous clots in their bloodstream. David Ginsberg, a researcher from the University of Minnesota, studies vonWillebrand factor (vWF). vWF protein circulates in the blood and binds platelets, but in order to prevent spontaneous clot formation, a different protein called ADAMTS13 must cut through vWF and break up the complexes that are formed. Dr. Jeske's young patient lacked ADAMTS13, and spontaneous clots were forming in his blood. Once the cause of the spontaneous clotting was determined, physicians were able to treat the patient, who recovered enough to go home.

Other disorders presented are deep venous thrombosis, sickle cell and other anemias, and leukemias. Each segment focuses on a different patient and the teams that work to help them.

I liked the way the video interspersed the clinical and research sides of hematology, and how it portrayed the personal aspect of each disorder by introducing actual patients. Also interesting to me was the fact that many of the doctors were women.

Sixty minutes for many teachers is longer than a class period. However, there is also a companion website (http://www.blooddetectives.org) with a "teaching tools" section, including PowerPoint slides of blood smears, case studies, a teacher's guide, and a video library. The DVD is divided into shorter, themed clips, which can be used by teachers who want to focus on one particular type of blood disorder, such as sickle cell anemia.

I would recommend "Blood Detectives" to high school or college-level instructors for the content alone, but also to show students new career paths.