Artificial Blood Clots to Improve Soldier Survival
CREDIT: Sebastian Kaulitzki |
World peace might be a distant fantasy, but the harsh realities of war could become a little less deadly with designer blood clots, a life-saving biotechnology. Researchers in biomedical engineering are developing these synthetic blood clots along with other materials that wounded soldiers can use to treat themselves on the battlefield.
The designer clots are injected into the bloodstream with a hand-held device, which is about the size of an iPhone. The synthetic blood platelets contained in the device are laced with regulatory chemicals that help to control bleeding, stabilize injuries, and set the course for proper healing.
When tested in animal models, the synthetic platelets were able to reduce the time it took for blood to clot by 30 percent. And since research shows that initial blood clotting determines successful healing, these designer blood clots could mean better recoveries for those wounded in battle.
“You could have it literally in the pocket of any soldier, who could pop it out when needed,” said Thomas Barker of the department of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.“As the needle is extended, you would break the package of freeze-dried particles. The device would then be placed on the abdomen, where the particles would be injected into the bloodstream. They would circulate inactive until they encountered the initiation of clotting.”
Barker said his research has primarily been focused on the critical need to stop bleeding in soldiers who have been wounded in battle. But his team also hopes to come up with materials that will head off the formation of scars. Scarring is a common affliction of war veterans and can lead to fibrosis, the contraction of scarred tissue, which is difficult to treat. The regulatory chemicals that form “designer clots,” however, might be able to prevent scarring.
“The blood clot actually ends up directing how the entire wound healing process is going to occur,” said Barker. “If we can modify that initial clot, it can become the three-dimensional matrix needed to build the regenerated or repaired tissue.”
Researchers are also developing biomaterials to help soldiers already suffering from the effects of fibrosis. And Barker said these same materials could find civilian applications, as well, particularly in their use by emergency medical technicians treating patients with suspected internal bleeding.