Many victims of traumatic injury often lose their lives due to excessive bleeding, but a new injectable bandage could save lives by slowing down this dangerous process.
The technology, which is still in the experimental stage, aims to stop or slow down bleeding in ways that current methods cannot.
Conventional methods to stop or slow down bleeding include regular bandages, tourniquets and applying pressure.
These methods, however, carry the risk of worsening internal injuries because of the force applied in using them. Moreover, there is a limit to how much bleeding that gauze and squeezing can stop.
Scientists believe that an injectable bandage could enter the wound itself and adapt to its shape, stopping blood flow and leakage in the process.
In a paper published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia, researchers from the Texas A&M University in the US reported that they had successfully developed a so-called hydrogel that could slow down or stop bleeding.
The scientists said it can also provide additional benefits, such as inducing blood-clotting.
The hydrogel, which they have specifically proposed as a solution to “battlefield wounds,” is a mix of seaweed-derived kappa-carrageenan (a thick, organic mixture used by pastry chefs) and ceramic molecules.
Studies from military combat show that most of the combatants who die from traumatic injury in the battlefield succumb within an hour.
Medics have stressed the need to carry out intervention therapy on patients within this critical period, which they commonly refer to as the “golden hour”. Swift intervention within this crucial period can save the life of a person who has been seriously injured and is bleeding.
Even more crucial is the medics’ finding that the victim’s chance of survival may largely depend on a first responder’s ability to minimise the loss of blood within the first 10 minutes.
In 2014, another medical technology company, RevMedX, developed an experimental version of an injectable bandage branded XStat, a syringe that creates a sealed barrier made up of tiny, pill-sized sponges when injected directly into a gaping wound.
In tests on pigs, it took about 15 seconds for the device to stop loss of blood. In developing the hydrogel bandage, the Texas A&M University researchers identified the ceramic material used as the key innovation.
It works by strengthening the bandage without making it less useful. Even with the ceramic part, the mixture is absorbent enough to deliver medicines directly into an injury along with the bandage.
The material is designed to harden after being injected into a wound, and the hydrogel maintains much of its strength after being soaked for 72 hours in water.
Researchers also found that it stuck better to cells than pure kappa-carrageenan, and caused cow or bovine blood to clot in less than six minutes instead of the usual eight.
Although the innovation is not the first of its kind, the initial results provide exciting clues as to how the technology might evolve to become a workable medical solution to haemorrhage.
“The hydrogel, however, has only been tested in lab experiments so far, and more research is needed to see if it works in living, bleeding humans,” the team said in a report.