Scientists have developed tiny clotting balls to stop bleeding and save lives

Scientists have developed tiny clotting balls that could help stop catastrophic bleeding, saving millions of people’s lives. US researchers at Case Western Reserve University, Wayne State University, and Virginia Tech wanted to address the fact that there are few effective treatment options for profuse bleeding, which is a leading cause of military deaths, and the reason millions of people around the world die each year following road traffic accidents. If patients can get to a hospital in time, they have the option of a blood transfusion, but a portable alternative would mean many more people could be helped.

So the scientists came up with the idea of making the clotting balls, also known as haemostatic nanoparticles. They’re tiny synthetic particles (200 times smaller than a human hair) that link up with blood platelets to form bonds with blood cells, activating the clotting process and preventing haemorrhage. The nanoparticles can be stored as a dry powder for up to two weeks and mixed with salt or sugar water to make a solution when required.

When the researchers injected their nanoparticles into the bloodstream of injured mice (aw), they saw an increase in survival rates from 60% to 90%, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The study’s lead author, Professor Erin Lavik from Case Western Reserve University, told the BBC: ‘Being able to administer something simply that can stop bleeding at many sites and improve survival is very exciting.’

The clotting balls are biodegradable, so should break down easily while blood flow remains stable. But more research is needed in larger animal subjects before human trials can take place.

Image via University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley