Fibroblast cells – like this one here – are inconspicuous but vitally important cells. They make up most of the biological ‘glue’ that holds our cells and organs together, known as connective tissue, and spring into action wherever they’re needed to heal wounds and repair damage. This cell is stained with a fluorescent dye highlighting a molecule called tissue factor, which triggers a cascade of chemical reactions that kick-start blood clot formation – the first step in the wound healing process. Although blood clots are vital for patching up broken bodies they can cause problems if they form inside blood vessels. Dislodged blood clots get stuck in vital arteries, blocking blood flow and causing heart attacks or strokes. Because of their key role in blood clot formation, fibroblasts and the molecules they make are prime targets for scientists seeking new clot-busting therapies, with the potential for saving thousands of lives every year.
Written by Kat Arney
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