Strain tunes proteolytic degradation and diffusive transport in fibrin networks

Biomacromolecules. 2012 Feb 13;13(2):499-506. doi: 10.1021/bm2015619. Epub 2012 Jan 24.


Proteolytic degradation of fibrin, the major structural component in blood clots, is critical both during normal wound healing and in the treatment of ischemic stroke and myocardial infarction. Fibrin-containing clots experience substantial strain due to platelet contraction, fluid shear, and mechanical stress at the wound site. However, little is understood about how mechanical forces may influence fibrin dissolution. We used video microscopy to image strained fibrin clots as they were degraded by plasmin, a major fibrinolytic enzyme. Applied strain causes up to 10-fold reduction in the rate of fibrin degradation. Analysis of our data supports a quantitative model in which the decrease in fibrin proteolysis rates with strain stems from slower transport of plasmin into the clot. We performed fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) measurements to further probe the effect of strain on diffusive transport. We find that diffusivity perpendicular to the strain axis decreases with increasing strain, while diffusivity along the strain axis remains unchanged. Our results suggest that the properties of the fibrin network have evolved to protect mechanically loaded fibrin from degradation, consistent with its function in wound healing. The pronounced effect of strain upon diffusivity and proteolytic susceptibility within fibrin networks offers a potentially useful means of guiding cell growth and morphology in fibrin-based biomaterials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Blood Coagulation*
  • Diffusion
  • Fibrin / chemistry*
  • Fibrinolysin / chemistry*
  • Fibrinolysin / metabolism
  • Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Proteolysis
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Fibrin
  • Fibrinolysin