When the liquid, composed of protein fragments called peptides, is applied to open wounds, the peptides self-assemble into a nanoscale protective barrier gel that seals the wound and halts bleeding. Once the injury heals, the nontoxic gel is broken down into molecules that cells can use as building blocks for tissue repair.
"We have found a way to stop bleeding, in less than 15 seconds, that could revolutionize bleeding control," said Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, research scientist in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
Doctors currently have few effective methods to stop bleeding without causing other damage. More than 57 million Americans undergo nonelective surgery each year, and as much as 50 percent of surgical time is spent working to control bleeding. Current tools used to stop bleeding include clamps, pressure, cauterization, vasoconstriction and sponges.
The exact mechanism of the solutions' action is still unknown, but the researchers believe the peptides interact with the extracellular matrix surrounding the cells. "It is a completely new way to stop bleeding; whether it produces a physical barrier is unclear at this time," Ellis-Behnke said.
The researchers are confident, however, that the material does not work by inducing blood clotting. Clotting generally takes at least 90 seconds to start, and the researchers found no platelet aggregation, a telltale sign of clotting.