Gel Could Offer Instant Bleeding Control
TUESDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- In the future, quick, effective wound control could come from a tube.
Researchers say they're developing a clear gel that covers an injury and immediately stops bleeding.
The gel has only been tested in rodents, and no one knows whether it will work in humans. But if it does, the product could turn out to be a major advance for both surgeons and ordinary people.
"If you are out camping, and you cut your hand, you could carry a tube of this and squirt it on your hand and stop bleeding," explained Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, an investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lead author of a new study on the gel.
While doctors have devised ways to stop it, bleeding remains a serious challenge during surgery.
Compression -- the same approach used to encourage blood clotting in a nosebleed or paper cut -- is one strategy. Cauterization -- frying the ends of blood vessels -- is another.
Surgeons also turn to clot-boosting drugs and even use the main ingredient in "Super Glue" to close wounds.
Ellis-Behnke and his colleagues accidentally came across another possible solution while testing ways to reconnect severed parts of the brain. "We noticed that all the bleeding stopped in the brain when we put the material in," he said.
The gel in question creates a barrier of peptides -- tiny bits of protein -- when placed on a wound. The researchers tested the gel on hamsters, using it to treat wounds to the brain, liver, spinal cord, muscle and femoral artery.
The study was published Tuesday in the online edition of Nanomedicine.
The researchers, from MIT and Hong Kong University, found the gel worked within 15 seconds to stop bleeding.
It's not clear just how it works, but researchers don't think it's causing the blood to clot, since that process takes 1 to 2 minutes. "We could find out that it's just a physical barrier," Ellis-Behnke said.
Later, the gel -- which is clear and looks like water -- disintegrates into amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
According to Ellis-Behnke, the gel could potentially be used to stop a variety of kinds of bleeding. "In every surgery, about 50 percent of the time is spent controlling bleeding. If you could use this in a lot of those surgeries, you could reduce the time it takes to do the surgery and reduce the amount of blood you have to put in that person," he said.
He added that the gel might even help preserve severed limbs by reducing bleeding as they await reattachment to the body, he said.
The next step is to test the gel on a larger animal, pigs, Ellis-Behnke said. He estimated it may take three to five years before the product reaches the human market.
As for the cost, Ellis-Behnke doesn't expect the gel to be very expensive. Ellis-Behnke does not have a direct financial stake in the product's success, although MIT does.
Currently, doctors are testing another anti-bleeding product -- an intravenous drug known as NovoSeven that appears to boost blood clotting.
The new gel isn't intravenous and can require surgeons to open up parts of the body to get to the bleeding areas, noted Dr. Mary Pat McKay, director of the George Washington University Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
McKay, who's familiar with the findings of the new study, added that it's not entirely clear what happens to the gel over time once it is applied to a wound.
Still, the gel could help patients, especially those who fail other treatments, McKay said. She added that it could also prevent patients from needing extensive transfusions.
"It has some real potential," she said. "But it's pretty far away from being used in humans."
There's more on wound control at the State University of New York.