According to MIT, uncontrollable bleeding is the leading cause of death in the battlefield as soldiers are often away from adequate medical care. Using components that are found in our own blood already, a team of engineers at the university created a coating for bandages or sponges that helps stop bleeding within 60 seconds.
Evaluating the current state of methods to halt bleeding outside of hospitals, MIT found several flaws making them unsuitable for certain types of wounds or for use in the field by soldiers. MIT News states:
Traditional methods to halt bleeding, such as tourniquets, are not suitable for the neck and many other parts of the body. [...] Fibrin dressings and glues have a short shelf life and can cause an adverse immune response, and zeolite powders are difficult to apply under windy conditions and can cause severe burns. Another option is bandages made of chitosan, a derivative of the primary structural material of shellfish exoskeletons. Those bandages have had some success but can be difficult to mold to fit complex wounds.
Turning toward the success civilian hospitals have had with sponges soaked in liquid thrombin -- a clotting protein found in blood -- MIT's Paula Hammond and her team with the Institute for Soldier Technologies set out to make a non-liquid version that would be easy use the the field by both soldiers or emergency response teams. MIT News reports that the team created a nanoscale biological coating using thrombin and tannic acid. The coating is used to create a film on, and even inside the material, of sponges and bandages. It's the ability to deliver the coating to inside fibers that some in the medical field find exciting, according to MIT News:
“All of the existing hemostatic materials suffer from the same limitation, which is being able to deliver a dense enough package of hemostatic material to the bleeding site. That’s why this new material is exciting,” says [David] King, [a trauma surgeon] and an Army reservist who has served in Afghanistan but was not involved in this study.
To test the coating, MIT researchers applied coated sponges to wounds with pressure from a human thumb for 60 seconds. This pressure and short amount of time were successful at stopping bleeding. Comparably, the researchers found a non-thrombin coated sponge took 150 seconds for bleeding to stop and a gauze pad took longer than 12 minutes, which was the length allotted for each test, and did not stop bleeding.
Next up, Hammond is looking to combine the coating with an antibiotic. The team has applied for a patent for the thrombin nano-coating and believes that since the materials used in the coating are already FDA approved, it could help the process toward commercial development.
Another benefit of the sponges having the thrombin coating is that it allows for longer term storage, compared to liquid thrombin and other effective blood-clotting agents.
This research was published in the journal Advanced Materials.
[H/T Popular Science]