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Blood Clot Fibers Surprisingly Elastic

Clot Fibers Stretch Farther Than Any Other Natural Fiber, Including Spider Webs, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 3, 2006 -- Spiderman, eat your heart out. Blood clot fibers made by the bodies of mere mortals put spider webs to shame in terms of stretchiness.

In fact, the blood's fibrin fibers appear to stretch farther than any other natural fiber – up to six times their length before breaking, experts report in Science.

The findings aren't simply science trivia, notes Roy Hantgan, PhD, in a news release from Wake Forest University.

The study "helps us to understand how tough it is to remove a clot that is preventing blood flow to a person's heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke," says Hantgan, an associate professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest's medical school.

Hantgan worked with Martin Guthold, PhD, an assistant professor of physics, and other scientists on the fibrin study.

They worked in a lab to stretch fibrin as far as possible and found the material could stretch to three times its length and bounce back undamaged. Taken to the max, some fibrin fibers could stretch to six times their length before snapping.

That was a "stunning revelation," Guthold says, explaining that fibrin's snapping point was thought to be much lower.

Fibrin's flexibility helps blood clots do their job, using a matrix of fibers to stop the flow of blood.

"The fibrin fibers need to stop the flow of blood, so there is a lot of mechanical stress on those fibers," Guthold explains.

Fibrin fibers "likely endow blood clots with important physiological properties," he adds. "They make blood clots very elastic and very stretchable."

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