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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 October 2006, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Liquid to seal open wounds fast
Dr Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, left, and Professor Gerald Schneider stand by monitor showing a transected liver that has been sealed. Picture: Donna Coveney.
Researchers demonstrate a sealed liver wound
Scientists are hailing a biodegradable solution that can stop bleeding in wounded rodents within seconds.

The US and Hong Kong team believes the breakthrough, featured in the journal Nanomedicine, could help stabilise patients with serious injury.

When the solution is applied to open wounds, it forms a gel that seals the site of injury.

Once the injury heals, the gel is broken down into molecules that cells can use to begin tissue repair.

We have found a way to stop bleeding that could revolutionise bleeding control
Dr Rutledge Ellis-Behnke

The key is that the solution is composed of protein fragments called peptides.

Once they contact the wound, these fragments self-assemble into a gel that forms a seal without harming nearby cells.

Even after excess gel is removed, the wound remains sealed.

The gel eventually breaks down into amino acids, the building blocks for proteins, which can be used by surrounding cells.

Time consuming process

Lead researcher Dr Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said "We have found a way to stop bleeding, in less than 15 seconds, that could revolutionise bleeding control."

As much as 50% of surgical time during emergency operations is taken up trying to control bleeding.

Doctors currently have few effective methods to stop bleeding without causing other damage.

Current tools used to stop bleeding - haemostasis - include clamps, pressure, cauterisation, vasoconstriction and sponges.

The new liquid treatment was applied to several types of tissue, including brain, liver, skin, spinal cord and intestine.

In almost every case it stopped bleeding immediately.

Dr Ellis-Behnke said it could be of great use during surgery - particularly that which is done in a messy environment such as a battlefield.

He said: "The time to perform an operation could potentially be reduced by up to 50%."

Other advantages

The liquid can be used in a wet environment, and, unlike some other agents, it does not induce an immune response in the animals being treated.

The exact way the solution works is still unclear, but the researchers believe the peptides interact with the extracellular matrix surrounding the cells.

They have already used the same technology to help partially restore sight in hamsters whose visual tract had been severed.

Dr David Becker, of University College London, has carried out work in the area of wound healing.

He said the study sounded fascinating, but more detail was needed about the solution interacted with the natural wound-healing process.

"I could see haemophiliacs wanting to carry some of this solution around with them in case of emergency if it works this well!"

Mr Kieran Power, a plastic surgery expert also based at UCL, said: "Such an agent to halt bleeding may be of help in many types of surgery but particularly when operating on very sensitive tissues such as brain where other methods of haemostasis inevitably result in tissue damage.

It would also be helpful in "key hole" surgery where there is minimal access which makes managing bleeding difficult and can result in procedures being converted into open surgery."

However, Mr Power said it would be very difficult to develop a technology that could stem all types of bleeding.

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