Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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British Heart Foundation 'Reflections of Research' 2017 A Clotty Problem
08 September 2017

A Clotty Problem

Blood clots, like the one seen here under a high-powered microscope, are life savers and life destroyers. When we cut ourselves, a clot forms at the site of the damage to prevent too much blood being lost. Long strands of fibrin form a network trapping red blood cells and other components in the blood, creating a solid mesh to seal the wound. But in the wrong place – such as inside a blood vessel – they can be deadly, causing strokes and heart attacks that kill around 100,000 people every year in the UK. Fibrin is the most stretchy biological material we know of, and fibrin fibres can stretch more than five times their original size. By studying the detailed arrangement of fibrin and blood cells in clots, researchers are understanding more about the clotting process and using this knowledge to develop more effective clot-busting drugs to save lives in the future.

Written by Kat Arney

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