In an application of nanotechnology to medicine, a nanotech material has been produced that self-assembles in the presence of bodily fluids into highly hydrated fibers that stop bleeding within 15 seconds, and which are harmlessly adsorbed by the body when no longer needed. The material also shows promise as a tissue engineering scaffold to facilitate healing in the central nervous system. Excerpts from “Nanohealing Material Heads to Market“, written by Kevin Bullis at Technology Review (via KurzweilAI.net):
A startup based in Cambridge, MA, says that it plans to soon begin clinical trials of a nanostructured material that stops bleeding almost instantly. A startup called Arch Therapeutics has licensed the technology from MIT and is developing manufacturing processes for making it in large amounts.
The new material can be poured over a site and will stop the bleeding almost at once.
The first application, pending Food and Drug Administration approval, will be for use during surgery to quickly stop bleeding and even prevent it in the first place. Floyd Loop, currently an advisor to Arch Therapeutics, and formerly a cardiovascular surgeon and the head of Cleveland Clinic, says that it could be useful in a wide variety of surgeries, including brain, heart, and prostate. For example, he says that when large tumors are removed, “there’s a lot of diffuse bleeding around the site, and you have to spend a lot of time with sponges and cautery stopping it.”
Loops says that in addition to saving time, which can improve the outcome of a surgery, the material could decrease the need for transfusions and reoperations to control bleeding. What’s more, it could reduce the risk of infection. It could be used, for instance, to prevent leakage after bowel-repair surgery. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Loop says.
Eventually, the material could be used by first responders to stop bleeding at accident sites and on the battlefield. It has a long shelf life, which makes it attractive for use in first-aid kits. It’s also easily broken down by the body, so it doesn’t have to be removed, unlike other agents for stopping blood flow…
The material, a synthetic peptide, was discovered at MIT in the early 1990s. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that its potential for stopping bleeding was discovered. Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, a researcher at MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, was exploring its potential use to promote the healing of brain injuries. When he applied a liquid containing the synthetic peptides to a wound site in animal experiments, bleeding in the area stopped within a few seconds.
…the new material is easy to apply, doesn’t cause damage, and can be left on the wound, even if it’s a deep wound that’s eventually sewn up.
The material consists of naturally occurring amino acids that have been engineered to form peptides that spontaneously cluster together to create long fibers when exposed to salty, aqueous environments, such as those found in the body. The fibers form a mesh that serves as a physical barrier to blood and other fluids.
These peptides that are engineered to self-assemble into long fibers also have potentially exciting application as scaffolds for tissue repair in central nervous system injuries. Apparently one reason for pursuing stopping bleeding as the initial application is to “qualify as a medical device rather than a drug, which could speed the approval process.” The application of these engineered self-assembly peptides (termed Self-Assembling Peptide Nanofiber Scaffold (SAPNS)) to central nervous system repair, including the functional return of vision in a hamster model, was published in 2006 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (open access article). The application to controlling bleeding was published in 2006 in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine (abstract).