War is hell, as they say, but, in one respect, it also has a salutary impact on the human condition: Many medical breakthroughs came about with the battlefield in mind. A recent case in point is an injectable polymer developed by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle that can be used to stop bleeding from a wound on the battlefield until the patient can receive proper medical care. It could also be a lifesaver in rural areas and anywhere else where immediate medical treatment is not available.
PolySTAT works like factor XIII, a natural protein found in the body that helps strengthen blood clots, by crosslinking fibrin strands that form at the wound and prevent bleeding. Researchers report that the material would be potentially less expensive than the blood-based products currently in use, which require careful storage.
In an initial study, rodents with a typically lethal injury in the femoral artery who were injected with PolySTAT had a 100% survival rate. Researchers say that the material could reach human clinical trials within five years.
The image shows a 3D rendering of fibrin forming a blood clot, with PolySTAT (in blue) binding strands together.
Graphic courtesy William Walker/University of Washington.