Composed of peptides, the liquid self-assembles into a protective nanofiber gel when applied to a wound. Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, research scientist in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and Kwok-Fai So, chair of the department of anatomy at the University of Hong Kong, discovered the liquid’s ability to stop bleeding while experimenting with it as a matrix for regrowing brain cells in hamsters.
The researchers then conducted a series of experiments on various mammals, including rodents and pigs, applying the clear liquid agent to the brain, skin, liver, spinal cord, and femoral artery to test its ability to halt bleeding and seal wounds.
“It worked every single time,” said Ellis-Behnke. They found that it stopped the bleeding in less than 15 seconds, and even worked on animals given blood-thinning medications.
The wound must still be stitched up after the procedure; but unlike other agents designed to stop bleeding, it does not have to be removed from the wound site.
The liquid’s only byproduct is amino acids: tissue building blocks that can be used to actually repair the site of the injury, according to the researchers. It is also nontoxic, causes no immune response in the patient, and can be used in a wet environment, according to Ellis-Behnke. A paper outlining the findings is available online and will be published in the December issue of Nanomedicine.
Ellis-Behnke believes that first responders, say, on a battlefield or at a traffic accident, will save more lives with the nanosolution. Yet the most significant application may be in surgery, he says, especially on the liver and brain.
In fact, as much as half of the time during any operation is spent “doing some sort of bleeding control,” says Ellis-Behnke. Consequently, such a liquid could “fundamentally change the pace of the operation.”
Ram Chuttani, director of endoscopy and chief of interventional gastroenterology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is familiar with their research. “Where I see huge applications is in patients who present with gastrointestinal bleeding,” he says. “[Right now,] there’s no ideal agent to endoscopically manage gastrointestinal bleeding.”
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