Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Starless and Bible Black

serum albumin
It’s that time of year again. Those of us based in the UK shed a silent tear for the retreat of summer and the early evening darkness that comes with the clocks moving back to Greenwich Mean Time. It got me thinking about darkness and light, colour and shade and how they pop up from time to time in our business.

Of course, blood has long been associated with a particular shade of red. With the semi-holiday of Halloween upon us, children across the UK will attempt to improve their stock of chocolates and sweets with the help of ghostly costumes and oodles of fake blood. The deep crimson shade of the sort we might experience in blood labs is rarely duplicated accurately. I like to think I can spot fake blood from afar. At least, I hope I can.

This week also witnessed reports from the BBC about ‘blood rain’. This is a meteorological phenomenon whereby rain carrying particles swept up in sand storms many miles away falls upon the UK, turning cars and houses a shade of red. It’s hardly convincing as blood however. It’s just a bit reddish – pink even.

Getting back to real blood and colours, I thought about the word ‘bilirubin’. This is a bile pigment produced during the process of red blood cell destruction. There is a clue in the name. The ‘rubin’ part is derived from the Latin word ‘ruber’ which means red. As in ruby.

And finally, it got me thinking about serum albumin. Once again, there is a clue to the colour in its name. ‘Alb’ is Latin for ‘white’. The word ‘albumin’ in common parlance is most often associated with egg white (which isn’t even white until you fry it), but strictly speaking, albumin is a catch-all for a class of simple water soluble proteins. Not all of them are white, though. Still, it completes our journey through the shades. I can now get back to cleaning the sand off my car.

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