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Aaron Fogelson : Two Examples of Chemical Modulation of the Properties and Dynamics of Physiological Gels: Fibrin Formation and Mucin Swelling

Gels formed from mixtures of polymers and solvent are ubiquitous in physiological systems. The structure and properties of a gel can change dramatically in response to chemical modulation. Two examples of the influence of chemistry on gel properties will be discussed. The structure of fibrin gels that form during blood clotting is strongly influenced by the concentration of the enzyme thrombin that produces the fibrin monomers from which the gel is built. Presumably at higher thrombin concentrations, fibrin monomers are produced more rapidly from the precursor fibrinogen molecules. I will present an analysis of a possible mechanism of fibrin branching that can explain the sensitivity of fibrin structure to the rate of supply of monomers. Mucin gel is released from vesicles in goblet cells. During this exocytotic process, the polyelectrolyte mucin gel swells to many times its original volume at a very rapid rate. I will present a model in which this swelling is triggered by an exchange of divalent calcium ions in the vesicle and monovalent sodium ions in the extracellular space, and in which the ion concentrations and the rheological properties of the mucin gel determine its equilibrium size and the dynamics of its swelling.

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