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Blood clot fibers more elastic than spider's web

The tiny fibers that comprise blood clots show extraordinary elasticity, on average stretching to almost three times their length while still retaining their ability to go back to their normal shape and expanding to more than four times their length before breaking, according to findings published in the journal Science this week by researchers at Wake Forest University.

This discovery, which makes these fibrin fibers the most stretchable known fibers existing in nature, will help medical researchers create more accurate blood clot models, provide new insights into the wound healing process and offer a deeper understanding of heart attacks and strokes. Researchers from Wake Forest's physics department and Wake Forest University School of Medicine worked closely with researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on this project.

"For all naturally occurring fibers, fibrin fibers are the ones you can stretch the furthest before they break," said Martin Guthold, assistant professor of physics and one of the lead authors of the paper that appears in Science. "This was a stunning revelation because people hypothesized that these fibers stretched but broke much easier. In some cases, fibrin fibers had the ability to be stretched more than six times their length before they broke."

Blood clots are a three-dimensional network or mesh of fibrin fibers, stabilized by another protein called factor XIIIa. Because of its important function of stemming the flow of blood in the body, clots have to be both strong and pliable.

Fibrin fibers measure about 100 nanometers in diameter, roughly 1,000 times smaller than a human hair.

"The fibrin fibers need to stop the flow of blood, so there is a lot of mechanical stress on those fibers," Guthold said. "Our discovery of these mechanical properties of individual fibrin fibers shows that these fibers likely endow blood clots with important physiological properties
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Contact: Jacob McConnico
mcconnjn@wfu.edu
336-758-5237
Wake Forest University
3-Aug-2006


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