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tion, which are of very great importance, cannot be properly understood until the behaviour of the blood, when drawn in larger quantity than a drop, has been studied.
11. When, by the ordinary process of opening a vein with a lancet, a quantity of blood is collected into a basin, it is at first perfectly fluid: but in a very few minutes it becomes, through coagulation, a jelly-like mass, so solid that the basin may be turned upside down without any of the blood being spilt. At first the clot is a uniform red jelly, but very soon drops of a clear yellowish waterylooking fluid make their appearance on the surface of the clot, and on the sides of the basin. These drops increase in number, and run together, and after a while it has become apparent that the originally uniform jelly has separated into two very different constituents-the one a clear, yellowish liquid; the other a red, semi-solid mass, which lies in the liquid, and at the surface is paler in colour and firmer than in its deeper part.
The liquid is called the serum; the semi-solid mass the clot, or crassamentum. Now the clot obviously contains the corpuscles of the blood, bound together by some other substance; and this last, if a small part of the clot be examined microscopically, will be found to be that fibrous-looking matter, fibrin, which has been seen forming in the thin layer of blood. Thus the clot is equivalent to the corpuscles plus the fibrin of the plasma, while the serum is the plasma minus the fibrinous elements which it contained.
12. The corpuscles of the blood are slightly heavier than the plasma, and therefore, when the blood is drawn, they sink very slowly towards the bottom. Hence the upper part of the clot contains fewer corpuscles, and is lighter in colour, than the lower part-there being fewer corpuscles left in the upper layer of plasma for the fibrin to catch when it sets. And there are some conditions of the blood in which the corpuscles run together much more rapidly and in denser masses than usual. Hence they more readily overcome the resistance of the plasma to their falling, just as feathers stuck together in masses fall much more rapidly through the air than the same feathers when loose. When this is the case, the
upper stratum of plasma is quite free from red corpuscles before the fibrin forms in it; and, consequently, the uppermost layer of the clot is nearly white it receives the name of the buffy coat.
After the clot is formed, the fibrin shrinks and squeezes out much of the serum contained within its meshes; and, other things being equal, it contracts the more the fewer corpuscles there are in the way of its shrinking. Hence, when the buffy coat is formed, it usually contracts so much as to give the clot a cup-like upper surface.
Thus the buffy coat is fibrin naturally separated from the red corpuscles; the same separation may be effected, artificially, by whipping the blood with twigs as soon as it is drawn, until its coagulation is complete. Under these circumstances the fibrin will collect upon the twigs, and a red fluid will be left behind, consisting of the serum plus the red corpuscles, and many of the colourless ones.
13. The coagulation of the blood is hastened, retarded, or temporarily prevented by many circumstances.
(a) Temperature.-A high temperature accelerates the coagulation of the blood; a low one retards it very greatly; and some experimenters have stated that, when kept at a sufficiently low temperature, it does not coagulate at all.
(b) The addition of soluble matter to the blood.—Many saline substances, and more especially sulphate of soda and common salt, dissolved in the blood in sufficient quantity, prevent its coagulation; but coagulation sets in when water is added, so as to dilute the saline solution.
(c) Contact with living or not living matter.-Contact with not living matter promotes the coagulation of the blood. Thus, blood drawn into a basin begins to coagulate first where it is in contact with the sides of the basin; and a wire introduced into a living vein will become coated with fibrin, although perfectly fluid blood surrounds it.
On the other hand, direct contact with living matter retards, or altogether prevents, the coagulation of the blood. Thus blood remains fluid for a very long time in a portion of a vein which is tied at each end.
The heart of a turtle remains alive for a lengthened period (many hours or even days) after it is extracted from
the body; and, so long as it remains alive, the blood contained in it will not coagulate, though, if a portion of the same blood be removed from the heart, it will coagulate in a few minutes.
Blood taken from the body of the turtle, and kept from coagulating by cold for some time, may be poured into the separated, but still living, heart. and then will not coagulate.
Freshly deposited fibrin acts somewhat like living matter, coagulable blood remaining fluid for a long time in tubes coated with such fibrin.
14. The coagulation of the blood is an altogether physico-chemical process, dependent upon the properties of certain of the constituents of the plasma, apart from the vitality of that fluid. This is proved by the fact that if blood-plasma be prevented from coagulating by cold, and greatly diluted, a current of carbonic acid passed through it will throw down a white powdery substance. If this white substance be dissolved in a weak solution of common salt, or in an extremely weak solution of potash or soda, it, after a while, coagulates, and yields a clot of true pure fibrin. It would be absurd to suppose that a substance which has been precipitated from its solution, and redissolved, still remains alive.
There are reasons for believing that this white substance consists of two constituents of very similar composition, which exist separately in living blood, and the union of which is the cause of the act of coagulation. These reasons may be briefly stated thus:-The pericardium and other serous cavities in the body contain a clear fluid, which has exuded from the blood-vessels, and contains the elements of the blood without the bloodcorpuscles. This fluid sometimes coagulates spontaneously, as the blood plasma would do, but very often shows no disposition to spontaneous coagulation. When this is the case, it may nevertheless be made to coagulate, and yield a true fibrinous clot, by adding to it a little serum of blood.
Now, if serum of blood be largely diluted with water and a current of carbonic acid be gas passed through it, a white powdery substance will be thrown down; this, redissolved in a dilute saline, or extremely dilute alkaline,
solution will, when added to the pericardial fluid, produce even as good a clot as that obtained with the original
This white substance has been called globulin. It exists not only in serum, but also, though in smaller quantities, in connective tissue, in the cornea, in the humours of the eye, and in some other fluids of the body.
It possesses the same general chemical properties as the albuminous substance which enters so largely into the composition of the red corpuscles (§ 4), and hence, at present, bears the same name. But when treated with chemical reagents, even with such as do not produce any appreciable effect on its chemical composition, it very speedily loses its peculiar power of causing serous fluids to coagulate. For instance, this power is destroyed by an excess of alkali, or by the presence of acids.
Hence, though there is great reason to believe that the fibrino-plastic globulin (as it has been called) which exists in serum does really come from the red corpuscles, the globulin which is obtained in large quantities from these bodies, by the use of powerful reagents, has no coagulating effect at all on pericardial or other serous fluids.
Though globulin is so susceptible of change when in solution, it may be dried at a low temperature and kept in the form of powder for many months, without losing its coagulating power.
Thus globulin, added, under proper conditions, to serous effusion, is a coagulator of that effusion, giving rise to the development of fibrin in it.
It does so by its interaction with a substance contained in the serous effusion, which can be extracted by itself, and then plays just the same part towards, a solution of globulin, as globulin does towards its solution. This substance has been called fibrinogen. It is exceedingly like globulin, and may be thrown down from serous exudation by carbonic acid, just as globulin may be precipitated from the serum of the blood. When redissolved in an alkaline solution, and added to any fluid containing globulin, it acts as a coagulator of that fluid, and gives rise to the development of a clot of fibrin in it. In accordance with what has just been stated, serum of blood which has completely. coagulated may be kept in one
vessel, and pericardial fluid in another, for an indefinite period, if spontaneous decomposition be prevented, without the coagulation of either. But let them be mixed, and coagulation sets in.
Thus it seems to be clear, that the coagulation of the blood, and the formation of fibrin, are caused primarily by the interaction of two substances (or two modifications of the same substance), globulin or fibrinoplastin and fibrinogen, the former of which may be obtained from the serum of the blood, and from some tissues of the body; while the latter is known, at present, only in the plasma of the blood, of the lymph, and of the chyle, and in fluids derived from them.
15. The proverb that "blood is thicker than water" is literally true, as the blood is not only "thickened" by the corpuscles, of which it has been calculated that no fewer than 70,000,000,000 (eighty times the number of the human population of the globe) are contained in a cubic inch, but is rendered slightly viscid by the solid matters dissolved in the plasma. The blood is thus rendered heavier than water, its specific gravity being about 1055. In other words, twenty cubic inches of blood have about the same weight as twenty-one cubic inches of water.
The corpuscles are heavier than the plasma, and their volume is usually somewhat less than that of the plasma. Of colourless corpuscles there are usually not more than three or four for every thousand of red corpuscles; but the number varies very much, increasing shortly after food is taken, and diminishing in the intervals between meals.
The blood is hot, its temperature being about 100 Fahrenheit.
16. Considered chemically, the blood is an alkaline fluid, consisting of water, of solid and of gaseous matters.
The proportions of these several constitutents vary according to age, sex, and condition, but the following statement holds good . the average :
In every 100 parts of the blood there are 79 parts of water and 21 parts of dry solids; in other words, the water and the solids of the blood stand to one another in about the same proportion as the nitrogen and the oxygen of the air. Roughly speaking, one quarter of the blood