Blood Clot Threads Are Nature's Most Stretchable: Study

Fibrin fibers could be pulled more than four times their length before they broke

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THURSDAY, Aug. 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The tiny fibers that comprise blood clots have extraordinary elasticity, according to researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

They found that these fibrin fibers -- which are about 100 nanometers in diameter, roughly 1,000 times smaller than a human hair -- can stretch to nearly three times their length and still return to their normal shape. They can expand to more than four times their normal length before they break.

The fibrin fibers are the most stretchable known fibers in nature, the study concluded in a finding that could help scientists create more accurate blood clot models and provide new insights into wound healing, heart attacks and strokes.

The research was published in the Aug. 3 issue of the journal Science.

"For all naturally occurring fibers, fibrin fibers are the ones you stretch the furthest before they break," co-lead author Martin Guthold, assistant professor of physics at Wake Forest University, said in a prepared statement.

"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," Guthold added.

"The fibrin fibers need to stop the flow of blood, so there is a lot of mechanical stress on those fibers," he noted. "Our discovery of these mechanical properties of individual fibrin fibers shows that these fibers likely endow blood clots with important physiological properties. They make blood clots very elastic and very stretchable."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about blood clots.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University, news release, Aug. 3, 2006

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