Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is an important complication following administration of heparin. Platelet activation and aggregation induced by heparin/platelet factor 4/immunoglobulin complexes are thought to be the underlying mechanism for this condition, so it was hypothesized that abciximab (a humanized murine monoclonal antibody directed against the glycoprotein IIb/IIIa receptor) would prevent heparin-induced platelet aggregation and activation in plasma from patients with HIT. Platelet aggregation was tested in vitro with platelet-poor plasma (obtained from 23 patients with HIT), platelet-rich plasma (from normal donors with known reactivity), heparin (0.5 U/ml), and ascending doses of abciximab (0.07-0.56 microg/ml). The ability of abciximab to prevent platelet activation was also evaluated using flow cytometry (P selectin expression, mepacrine release, microparticle formation) and platelet factor 4 immunoassay. In vitro, abciximab inhibited heparin-induced platelet aggregation in a dose-dependent fashion (IC50 0.103 microg/ml) and inhibited microparticle formation, the expression of P-selectin, release of mepacrine and platelet factor 4. These findings suggest that abciximab may be useful in treatment of patients with HIT and warrants further clinical evaluation.