Actually, that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Whole books can be written about blood, and have been written.
One important property of blood is its ability to clot. You probably take that ability for granted. Countless times in the average person’s life, scratches and scrapes have resulted from the ordinary accidents of everyday life. Blood may flow for a while, then it stops.
The blood thickens in the wound’s opening and seems to jellify. It forms a hard clot or “scab.” After a while, the scab falls-off and new skin are found underneath.
The wound has healed
Such a self-sealing device is obviously important if we’re to stay alive. We can’t have all our blood pouring out every time there’s a break in the skin.
On the other hand, you don’t want blood clotting while it’s still inside the blood vessels.
In order to make the process as fool-proof as possible to make blood clot only where and when necessary, the body has worked out a rather complicated procedure.
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The exact details don’t matter but a whole series of reactions are involved, including several enzymes, several ordinary proteins, and other chemical substances. New refinements are still being discovered.
The point is, though that any hitch anywhere along the line can result in serious bleeding difficulties.
Some people are born with imperfect clotting mechanism. Such a condition is known as HEMOPHILIA.
The disease runs in families. People with hemophilia just keep on bleeding and even the smallest scratch might kill them eventually if they do not receive expert care.
In the last century, hemophilia has cropped up among members of the Spanish and Russian royal families. The disease, therefore, received considerable publicity. It still does even though neither royal family is royal any longer.
Now one of the steps in the clotting mechanism involves the compound we call Vitamin K. If Vitamin K is not present in the body, clotting cannot take place.
In fact, Vitamin K received its “K’ from the word ‘coagulation” (which is a fancy synonym for, “clotting3,”). It was a German chemist who named it and in German, you see, the word is “koagulation.”
Vitamin K in the Blood
Vitamin K is one of the vitamins which is most readily manufactured by the bacteria of the intestine. It does not have to be in the diet at all.
Because of this, the only human beings who have to concern themselves with VITAMIN K are new-born babies. The trouble is that babies are born without bacteria.
It takes about three or four days for ordinary contact with the outside world to flu their tiny intestines with germs. Until then, they are in danger be* cause they have no Vitamin K.
In other words, for the first three or four days of its life, a baby is a “bleeder.” It has a mild and temporary hemophilia. And all because, it has too few germs.
Modern American hospitals avoid this condition by injecting the mother with Vitamin K shortly before the baby is born. The Vitamin K leaks over from the mother’s bloodstream into the baby’s, and then the little fellow is safe.
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Another interesting thing about Vitamin K is that chemists have created an unusual synthetic substitute for it. The molecule of the substitute is like that of the real thing except that it is simpler.
Whereas Vitamin K has two rings of carbon atoms in its, molecule with a long “tail” of more carbon atoms attached, the substitute has merely the rings without the tail.
The interesting thing about it is that the substitute is over a hundred times as effective as the real thing. So here is one place where the chemist has outdone nature.
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