Fibrin is a protein polymer that is essential for hemostasis and thrombosis, wound healing, and several other biological functions and pathological conditions that involve extracellular matrix. In addition to molecular and cellular interactions, fibrin mechanics has been recently shown to underlie clot behavior in the highly dynamic intra- and extravascular environments. Fibrin has both elastic and viscous properties. Perhaps the most remarkable rheological feature of the fibrin network is an extremely high elasticity and stability despite very low protein content. Another important mechanical property that is common to many filamentous protein polymers but not other polymers is stiffening occurring in response to shear, tension, or compression. New data has begun to provide a structural basis for the unique mechanical behavior of fibrin that originates from its complex multi-scale hierarchical structure. The mechanical behavior of the whole fibrin gel is governed largely by the properties of single fibers and their ensembles, including changes in fiber orientation, stretching, bending, and buckling. The properties of individual fibrin fibers are determined by the number and packing arrangements of double-stranded half-staggered protofibrils, which still remain poorly understood. It has also been proposed that forced unfolding of sub-molecular structures, including elongation of flexible and relatively unstructured portions of fibrin molecules, can contribute to fibrin deformations. In spite of a great increase in our knowledge of the structural mechanics of fibrin, much about the mechanisms of fibrin's biological functions remains unknown. Fibrin deformability is not only an essential part of the biomechanics of hemostasis and thrombosis, but also a rapidly developing field of bioengineering that uses fibrin as a versatile biomaterial with exceptional and tunable biochemical and mechanical properties.
Keywords: Biopolymer mechanics; Fibrin mechanics; Fibrin structure; Rheology.
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