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New gel can stop wounds from bleeding

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Injuries due to gunshot wounds or traffic accidents, can often
be fatal if the injured person doesn’t receive prompt medical care. 

Now, an injectable polymer material that encourages faster, more durable
blood clotting at wound sites, could stop bleeding following these
life-threatening injuries.
The material, known as PolySTAT, was developed by engineers at the
University of Washington in the US, and mimics a natural protein in our
body that helps strengthen blood clots. 
The team says
that following injection, their wound healing polymer “circulates
innocuously in the blood, identifies sites of vascular injury, and
promotes clot formation to stop bleeding”.
So far they have only tested their polymer on rats, but report in the press release that 100 percent of the animals injected survived “a typically-lethal injury to the femoral artery”. 
This stacks up fairly well against the 20 percent survival rate among the rats they treated with a natural protein known to induce blood clotting. 
As Alexandra Ossola reports for Popular Science, the rats that weren’t treated with PolySTAT lost 11 times more blood.  
The results have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine
and the team says their polymer treatment – which is expected to reach
human trials in five years – could provide an important buffer to help
people with serious injuries in remote locations reach medical
facilities, such as soldiers in conflict zones. 
“Most of the patients who die from bleeding die quickly,” said co-author and emergency medicine specialist Nathan White, in the press release
“This
is something you could potentially put in a syringe inside a backpack
and give right away to reduce blood loss and keep people alive long
enough to make it to medical care,” he said.
The
polymer is meant to augment the natural protein factor XIII, which
encourages special fibres – known as fibrin – in the body to weave
together to form a barrier at a wound site. 
As Ossola explains for Popular Science,
“when you get a cut, your body hurries to stop the leaking to keep the
blood in and the nasty bacteria out. Platelets in your blood gather more
cells around the wound, creating a mass that is then bound together by a
strand-like protein called fibrin.”
With small wounds, this woven
barrier usually holds and the cut scabs over. But with larger wounds,
clots sometimes can’t form fast enough, or else the pressure of the
leaking blood is too great, causing the barrier to give out and the
bleeding to continue. 
According to the release, PolySTAT adds “‘cross-links’ that reinforce the latticework of that natural bandage”.

“It’s like the difference between twisting two ropes together and weaving a net,” said co-author and bioengineer Suzie Pun in the release. “The cross-linked net is much stronger.”

The team has also shown
that the polymer material is more resistant to enzymes that dissolve
clots, which means they can stem bleeding for longer periods.

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Importantly, the researchers say
they “used a highly specific peptide that only binds to fibrin at the
wound site. It does not bind to a precursor of fibrin that circulates
throughout the body. That means PolySTAT shouldn’t form dangerous clots
that can lead to a stroke or embolism.”
There are several technologies aimed at halting blood loss following traumatic wounds. A material called Veti-Gel can be applied to the skin’s surface to essentially seal a wound. Watch the video below, OR DON’T, if you’re AT ALL squeamish about blood.  
  

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