I’ve been reading about nano this-and-that, and now there’s some progress in my field: bleeding that Needs to Stop.
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 Shuguang Zhang, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, began experimenting with peptides in 1991. Zhang and colleagues at MIT and the University of Hong Kong in China 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 (see Nano-scaffolds could help rebuild sight).
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.
Ed Buchel, who teaches general and plastic surgery at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada, 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 10 October 2006 edition of online journal Nanomedicine.
This is a far-horizon thing, but if it works as described it’d help, for a zillion or so patients and their doctors.