What a lot is concealed in one drop of blood!
- Experimental Dark-field Microscopy Investigations of Living Blood
by Kira Lynn Fiedermutz
As part of a term paper for a high level Biology course at the Rabanus-Maurus Gymnasium [= Grammar school] in Mainz, Ms. Fiedermutz tackled the subject „Experimental Investigations of Living Blood as seen through the Dark-field Microscope“. She investigated the influence of foodstuffs and nicotine on the blood, using Dark-field microscopy to illustrate her findings. We reprint her paper here in an abbreviated form.
1.1 Tasks of the Blood
The blood’s most important task is to transport various substances. In this way water and nutrients pass from the organs of digestion and storage via the blood to the tissues, by-products reach the organs of elimination, and hormones and other messenger substances arrive at their response organs or cells. Within the organism oxygen and carbon dioxide too are distributed via the blood from the respiratory organs to the tissues, or vice-versa. Temperature regulation likewise takes place with the help of the blood, since warmth reaches the body’s surface, from where it is emitted.
Functions of the blood itself include clotting, which serves to close wounds, and also its buffering capacity, which guarantees a constant chemical milieu so far as pH level and ionic balance are concerned.
As well as this, the blood has a defensive function. This includes antibody formation and phagocytosis, affording protection against pathogenic microbes, toxins or foreign substances.
1.2 Haemorrheological factors under the influence of cigarette smoke.
Various studies support the view that smoking cigarettes has an adverse effect on the fluid properties and clotting of the blood (Belch 1984; Daibianco 1989; Feher 1990; Gudmundsson & Bjelle 1993).
Cigarette smoke consists mostly of carbon monoxide (CO), and when inhaled, this has a much greater affinity for haemoglobin than oxygen (O2). The result of this reduced capacity for oxygen bonding is a reduction in the oxygen supply to the tissues. Because of this hypoxia in the tissues, the brain signals the bone marrow to produce more red blood-cells.
This results in a higher level of carboxyhaemoglobin (CO bonding with haemoglobin) in the blood, and Sagone regards this as being the cause of the hypoxia; Anadere on the other hand suspects an increased aggregation of erythrocytes to be the reason.
As a consequence there is a rise in the haematocrit - the amount of the cellular component - and a thickening of the blood occurs. This is the reason for the deterioration in the viscosity (fluidity) of the blood. Moreover, the red blood-cells are limited as to their formability - and thus their distortability (Leonhardt), and this places a burden on the supply of O2 (Salbas, 1994).
The viscosity of the blood is influenced by its water content, the number of erythrocytes, their formability, the haematocrit level (see Fig. 1), the temperature and, to a lesser extent, by the amount of plasma protein.
Fig.1: Dependency of the relative viscosity of the blood on the haematocrit level, after Guyton
In smokers the viscosity of the blood is elevated.
One particular property of erythrocytes is their clustering together like a roll of coins (rouleaux formation or pseudo- agglutination), which is easily observed with a dark-field microscope.
As the viscosity increases, so also does the quantity of leucocytes (Blann 1992; Calori 1996; Thomas 1996) as well as the tendency of the thrombocytes to aggregate (Pittilo 1984) i.e. thrombi develop, since the platelets become stickier and stickier. The plasma viscosity increases, not only on account of the formation of aggregates, but also because of the elevated fibrinogen which is caused by smoking. The long-chain protein molecule is capable of building bridges. Thus, because of its bonding with the erythrocytes, protein can have a negative effect on the viscosity.
Viewed through the dark-field microscope, it is possible to demonstrate - as well as the above- mentioned aggregation of thrombocytes - the aggravated viscosity in the form of network-like threads of fibrin. The transformation of fibrinogen into fibrin, the active form, points to increased activity of the clotting factors, which makes the blood lumpy.
1.3 Digestive Leucocytosis
By the term ‘digestive leucocytosis’
we understand an increase in the leucocyte count after consuming food. This was first discovered by Rudolf Virchow in the 19th century. It is not yet known to what extent this constitutes an immune response to foreign protein in the food, or a physiological reaction to a high amount of fat.
After food with a high protein content, e.g. after eating meat, digestive leucocytosis is significantly higher than it is after eating raw food. Thus it follows that the fluid properties of the blood are better in someone on a raw food diet, eating food in its natural state, i.e. unprocessed.
By means of investigations of the blood with the aid of a dark- field microscope, I have attempted to demonstrate the influences of cigarette smoking and the type of diet, as described above. Read more