Preventing Bleeding

Photo credit: Ali Khademhosseini, Brigham and Women's Hospital

Excessive bleeding is a dangerous complication in gastrointestinal and neurological diseases, and serious injury, to name a few. One method of stopping gastrointestinal bleeding is by the use of small metallic coils that encourage clotting. This is problematic for patients on blood thinning medications or who's bodies cannot naturally clot. Patients may even experience dangerous recurrences of bleeding.

In a breakthrough of materials science and medicine, bioengineers from Brigham and Women's Hospital have developed an injectable biomaterial that can hold its shape within a blood vessel to prevent bleeding, effective even in patients who cannot form blood clots. The details of the study is published in Science Translational Medicine.

The material is a hydrogel known as a shear-thinning biomaterial (STB), and it has the same consistency as toothpaste. It is made of gelatin and nanomaterials. In tests on mice and pigs, the researchers demonstrated that the injected STB can withstand blood pressure well, remain at the desired location of the body, and degrade naturally over time. In addition, the hydrogel encourages blood cells to migrate to the site of injection to further stop bleeding.

Technology That Saves

"This work is an example of how bioengineering can help address the challenges that clinicians and patients face," said Ali Khademhosseini, the leader of the study. "Our work thus far has been in the lab, but we are on a translational path to bring this new biomaterial for embolization to the clinic to improve patient care."

The researchers team hopes to start clinical testing soon. Because the components utilized to make the STB have been previously used in humans, regulatory safety measures could be more easily passed.

Immediate relief to bleeding is vital to surgical operations, as well as in emergency first aid for wounded soldiers and rescued disaster victims. Recent developments include Vetigel, a clotting polymeric algae gel similar to Khademhosseini and team's STB; and a syringe that plugs wounds with cellulose sponges. Technology like these could save many lives, and ensure a safer future for all.

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