The glue that stops bleeding

Wouldn’t it be great to stop a bleed right away? About 1.9 million people die each year from bleeding. However, how to do it easily? Perhaps, with the glue that stops bleeding. It seals bleeding organs in seconds. Even in people with life-threatening coagulopathies. How did the scientists do it? Inspired by barnacles, the crustacean that grows on rocks, turtles and whales.

The glue that stops bleeding was inspired by barnacles.
The glue that stops bleeding was inspired by barnacles.
Animal survival

When carcasses are bleeding, it is very difficult to stop the bleeding. Commercially available adhesives fail to stick to wet tissue. People’s lives depend on how many minutes an anticoagulant can work.

But that could change with glue that stops bleeding. It was created by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This paste adheres firmly to tissue. And it repels blood in less than 15 seconds, which could save millions of lives.

“The driving force of nature’s evolution is survival.” lo said Hyunwoo Yuk, one of the authors of the study. “You want to solve a problem? Maybe you’ll find an animal that’s already evolved to solve it,” he added. Barnacles caught his attention. They’re “annoyingly sticky”: “They stick on rock, they stick on rusty steel. And they stick on slimy surfaces like whales and turtles.”

Barnacles can stick to any surface, like this whale.
Barnacles can stick to any surface, like this whale.
Hopeful experiments

They do this thanks to adhesive proteins embedded in a lipid-rich matrix. Thus, the scientists developed a “hydrophobic oily matrix” paste. This paste repels blood. And it binds to tissue surfaces when gentle pressure is applied. The study reports published in the acclaimed journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

It was experimented on rats, with bleeding wounds in the heart and liver. “You could seal the injury in as little as 10 seconds,” Yuk said.

The rats survived because of the glue. So did the pigs that were tested by Yuk’s collaborators. The preliminary results bode well. It would help human surgical patients with blood, heart and liver disorders.

“My overall impression of this stuff is that it’s amazing,” Hanjay Wang told Wired. He’s a resident in Stanford’s Department of Surgery. “It definitely fills a need. Especially in the emergency setting, when you need to just be in control.”

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