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Wonder Gel Stops Bleeding 2006-10-10

Posted by clype in Discovery, Health, Science.
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Swab a clear liquid onto a gaping wound and watch the bleeding stop in seconds. An international team of researchers has accomplished just that in animals, using a solution of ‘protein molecules’ that self-organise on ‘the nanoscale’ into a ‘biodegradable’ gel that stops bleeding.

If the material works as well in humans, it could save thousands of lives and make surgery far easier in many cases, surgeons say.

Molecular biologist Mr.Shuguang Zhang, at ‘The Massachusetts Institute of Technology‘ (‘MIT’) began experimenting with ‘peptides‘ in 1991. Mr.Zhang (shuguang@MIT.EDU) and colleagues at ‘MIT’ and ‘The University of Hong Kong‘ went on to design several materials that self-assemble into novel ‘nano-structures’, including a ‘molecular scaffold’ that helps the regrowth of severed nerve cells in hamsters.

Their work exploits the way certain ‘peptide’ sequences can be made to self-assemble into mesh-like sheets of ‘nanofibres’ when immersed in salt solutions.

In the course of that research they discovered one material’s dramatic ability to stop bleeding in the brain and began testing it on a variety of other organs and tissues. When applied to a wound, the ‘peptides’ form a gel that seals over the wound, without causing harm to any nearby cells.

[Picture of Ellis-Behnke]
‘In rodents it works in all the blood vessels and arteries, including “The femoral artery”,  “The portal vein”, and in”The liver”,’ says ‘MIT’ neuroscientist Mr.Rutledge Ellis-Behnke.

The ‘peptides’ assemble into a gel that looks ‘like a “hairy ribbon”, but at the nanoscale’ says Mr.Ellis-Behnke (rutledg@mit.edu), although precisely how it stops bleeding is not yet clear.

[Picture of Shuguang Zhang]

‘It’s critically important to understand the mechanism so we can rationally design new self-assembling materials,’ Mr.Zhang says.

Some surgeons are already excited about the material.

[Picture of Dimitri Azar]
‘I see great potential in the “eye field”, the “gastro-intestinal field”, and in “neurosurgery”,’ says Mr.Dimitri Azar, head of ophthalmology at ‘The University of Illinois‘ (dazar@uic.edu).

‘In the eye, even a drop of blood will blur your vision for a long time,’ Mr.Azar adds.

‘A material that would stop the bleeding could lead to a “paradigm shift” in how we practice surgery in the eye.’

Mr.Ed Buchel, who teaches general and plastic surgery at ‘The University of Manitoba‘, sees equal potential for treating trauma and burns.

‘If this works as well on humans as it does on rats, it’s phenomenal,’ he says.

Still, they caution that extensive clinical trials are needed to make sure the materials work properly and are safe. The ‘MIT’ researchers hope to see those crucial human trials within three to five years.

Their research will appear in the 2006-10-10 edition of on-line journal ‘Nanomedicine‘.

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