Researchers at UBC’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are developing a powder that would immediately stanch the flow of blood on site for emergency workers and first responders whose first priority is to stop the bleeding before transportation to a health care facility.
The development would save countless lives used on emergency scenes, treating combat wounds, sinus operations, and would also prevent women dying during childbirth in settings that lack resources.
This apparent breakthrough in trauma care was published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.
“Bleeding is the number one killer of young people, and maternal death from postpartum hemorrhage can be as high as one in 50 births in low resource settings so these are extreme problems,” said Christian Kastrup, an assistant professor at UBC at both the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and also the Michael Smith Laboratories.
“People have developed hundreds of agents that can clot blood but the issue is that it’s hard to push these therapies against severe blood flow, especially far enough upstream to reach the leaking vessels. Here, for the first time, we’ve come up with an agent that can do that,” Kastrup said.
As Kastrup points out, the obstacle to preventing blood flow during critical moments during a surgical procedure has been to push the coagulants far enough upstream with enough speed.
“The area we’re really focusing on is postpartum hemorrhage: in the uterus, after childbirth where you can’t see the damaged vessels but you can put the powder into that area and the particles can propel and find those damaged vessels,” said Kastrup.
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To do this, Kastrup and his team consulted with other researchers and biomedical engineers, as well as with emergency physicians to test the effectiveness of their gas-generating calcium carbonate microparticles, which can be applied in powder form.
The porous calcium carbonate binds with a clotting agent called tranexamic acid and then generates gas to transport it deep into damaged tissues which had previously been inaccessible.
While more testing and development is needed before the powder can be brought to market, the results of these early tests are encouraging.