In serious emergencies, blood loss can be a rapid and unstoppable cause of death. Now, a team of researchers has developed an injectable enzyme that can stop wounds from bleeding. Could this be bye bye to the plaster?
The team from the University of Washington has created a synthetic polymer that they call PolySTAT. A man-made substance that mimics the body's own clotting enzyme, called Factor XIII, it cross-links the protein chains known as fibrin that form when your blood usually clots. That cross-linking cements the clot more rapidly than the body usually can, and also stops the clots from breaking down as easily.
The team has carried out tests of the new polymer both in Petri dish and in living rats. In animal tests, the rats were inflicted with a major wound to an artery; the rodents that weren't provided with PolySTAT lost 11 times more blood than those that were. The results are published in Science Translational Medicine.
There are, of course, already plenty of ways to stem bleeding. But when traditional methods such as dressings and application of pressure fail, there's yet to be a regular, reliable and affordable alternative—be it gels or granulated crab shell.
That's not to say that PolySTAT will claim the crown, though the researchers behind it do point out that it's highly stable in storage, so it would be easy to carry in a first aid kit. Also the fact that it's injectable could allow for large areas to be treated—not just across the surface of the would, but below the skin, too—helping even huge injuries to stop bleeding.
Image by Joshua Stearns under Creative Commons license