Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blood Plasma Resembles Ketchup!

by AliceY, This post originally appeared at Future Science Leaders.


Plasma may usually flow like a liquid, but on a small-scale, has the consistency of ketchup.
A recent study reveals that plasma behaves like a solid on small scales. Blood delivers vital oxygen, and nutrients to all parts of the body. Blood plasma is made of water that transports red and white blood cells, proteins, salts, platelets and fats. To understand plasma, more knowledge must be gained about the motion of blood within the human body. On a small scale, blood acts elastic. To illustrate this picture, an analogy to ketchup can be made. Have you ever shaken a bottle of ketchup, only to have the solid mass of ketchup refuse to budge, and finally, in the end, ketchup squeezes through all at once? Ketchup may behave as blood cells floating in the plasma, and not to plasma itself. These tests suggest that plasma is not a normal fluid, but rather a side-to-side elasticity.
This may be a controversial issue as not all scientists agree that plasma is normal. Researchers at Saarland University in Saarbrucken, Germany slowly pulled apart two plates with plasma in-between them and stretched out the fluid. High-speed camera images revealed a thin filament connecting two plates. The narrow thread supports the fact that plasma is viscoelastic. Viscoelasticity shows properties of both liquids and solids. Blood plasma has a combination of viscosity and elasticity. The plasma flows in  a direction, and the chains stretch out and change the orientation of the blood plasma.This behaviour of plasma is related to the elongation of flow which is significant as the blood must slide through a narrowing blood vessel and squeeze past a clot.
To test this type of situation, Wagner and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania ran the plasma through microfluidics device. Once the small channel which is tens of microns wide is built, the plasma flows through a small canal. At one point in the channel, the channel narrows and the plasma is forced to elongate in order to fit through The flow lengthened, and showed characteristics of complex viscous fluids, not normal ones. The blood plasma’s stretchy behaviour only becomes significant on a small scale, but is a vital part of the prediction of the blood’s motion similar to how blood plasma works in small capillaries. Learning more about the characteristics of blood plasma can help doctors give more accurate information about their patients’ blood behaviours and body conditions. Scientists can create a 3-dimensional model to imitate the flow of blood in a model heart.
About this Contributor: An optimistic high school student, Alice enjoys expressing her thoughts and opinions through writing. She plays field hockey in her spare time.

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