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Science  12 Jan 1940:
Vol. 91, Issue 2350, pp. 48-50
DOI: 10.1126/science.91.2350.48


The level of the plasma prothrombin in the circulating blood is decreased during its passage through the pulmonary capillaries. In 85 per cent. of samples, plasma prothrombin has been found to be less in the blood of the left ventricle than in that from the right ventricle. This difference averaged 10.6 per cent. and ranged from 4 to 19 per cent. In no instance was the level in the right ventricle lower than that in the left. In samples of blood taken from the arterial and venous supply of the head, liver, spleen, intestine, kidney and hind limbs, no significant difference in plasma prothrombin levels was found.

A possible explanation of this role of the lung in the loss of plasma prothrombin is thought to be the production of blood platelets in this organ, as demonstrated by Howell and Donahue. Platelets, as they undergo disintegration, initiate the first stage of the clotting process by releasing thromboplastin, which, in the presence of calcium, changes prothrombin to thrombin.