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Super-stretchy blood clot fibers
Even though blood is a liquid, when you cut yourself, something amazing happens. Special proteins in your blood link together in chains, forming solid fibers that work their way into a net. This net catches red blood cells, and, voila, you have a blood clot that stops the bleeding.
Without blood clotting, even simple cuts could become dangerous. Researchers would like to use artificial models of blood clots in order to better understand how they behave. These models might help scientists better understand bleeding and clotting disorders.
But, we still don't know very much about the fibers that make up the blood clot's webby matrix.
Wenhua Liu of Wake Forest University and his colleagues have discovered that the fibers are surprisingly stretchy, even more than your average rubber-band. They can stretch nearly three times their length without losing their stretchiness and up to six times their length before breaking.
When the fibers are tangled into a web, as they do for blood clotting, the web is still pretty stretchy, but not nearly as much as the individual fibers, the researchers found.
This study appears in the 4 August 2006 issue of the journal Science.