A new injectable polymer developed by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle could help strengthen blood clots and save lives.
PolySTAT can be injected into the patient on site to stop bleeding before reaching a full medical team at a hospital or trauma center.
In a study on rats, researchers at UW found it saved 100 percent of animals with fatal injuries to the femoral artery. In comparison, just 20 percent of rats treated with a natural protein to help blood clot survived.
The researchers' findings are featured in the March 4 issue of the issue of Science Translational Medicine.
They say the injection could be ready for clinical trials in humans in five years.
Most battlefield fatalities are caused by uncontrolled bleeding. After an injury, naturally-occurring blood platelets start to congregate to form a barrier but if the pressure of the blood pushing against it is too great, the clot breaks.
PolySTAT is designed to mimic factor XIII, a natural protein found in the body that strengthens blood clots, and helps to create a stronger bond in clots, adding “cross-links” that reinforce the latticework of a natural clot.
“It's like the difference between twisting two ropes together and weaving a net,” said Suzie Pun, a university professor of bioengineering and co-author of the study along with Nathan White, an assistant professor of emergency medicine; Xu Wang, from UW's emergency medicine department, Hua Wei of UW bioengineering and Lilo Pozzo of UW chemical engineering.
The polymer also offers advantages over conventional hemorrhaging treatments which are expensive and require careful storage.
Although the initial studies look promising, researchers said the next steps include testing on larger animals and additional screening to determine if it binds to any other unintended substances.