Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Safety Net
04 January 2013

Safety Net

When we cut ourselves, a tight mesh forms across the wound. Made of a protein called fibrin, this is literally our body's safety net. It helps to create a barrier against bacteria and provides the framework for a blood clot. This defence is supported by white blood cells (WBC), which move in and secrete an acid that kills harmful invaders. However, you can have too much of a good thing. While this acid is essential for the immune response, it can also have a disastrous effect on the development of fibrin webs. As the concentration of acid increases (depicted left to right), fibrin filaments that form are smaller and more densely packed. This structural change means clots break down slower – a symptom associated with diabetes and kidney problems. These results suggest that acid produced by abnormal WBC activity might play a role in these diseases.

Written by Jan Piotrowski

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