BEVERLY HILLS – Scientists say they have made a synthetic blood-clotting agent that could help wounded troops and patients.
In the lab, the fake platelets cut bleeding in half compared with having no treatment.
They could offer doctors a limitless supply with a longer shelf life than fresh donor platelets, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports.
The Case Western Reserve University team in the US hopes the product could become available in coming years.
The stuff the fake platelets are made from is already used in treatments approved by the US regulators, which the scientists say should help speed things along.
James Bertram and Professor Erin Lavik developed the platelets using biodegradable polymers and designed them to home in and link up with a patient’s own platelets at the site of injury.
This could be a complement to current therapies. Natural blood platelets are good at helping wounds to clot but can be overwhelmed by large injuries.
Using donor platelets from other people can boost clotting but carries risks of complications, including rejection. They also have a shelf life of only five days.
The researchers’ aim is to develop a treatment that medics can keep in their packs to treat wounded soldiers in the field.
“The military has been phenomenal at developing technology to halt bleeding from external or compressible injuries.
“But so many injuries are from blast traumas where the damage is on the inside. And it can be hard to stop bleeds like this in the field.”
She said the fake platelets could offer a viable solution and an immediate treatment before transfer to a field hospital.
The synthetic platelets work alongside the body’s own platelets to quickly stem the bleeding.
In rats, injections of the therapy prior to injury halved bleeding time. When given 20 seconds after the injury, bleeding time was cut by a quarter.
To avoid the fake platelets clumping together and creating an artificial clot, each synthetic platelet is built with a surrounding water shield.
This also means that any surplus platelets not needed for the clotting should be flushed out of the body with no ill effects.
Trauma specialist Colonel Tim Hodgetts, from the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, said the military currently relies on blood stocks shipped from the National Blood Service by the RAF.
“This can be phenomenally challenging, particularly because the fresh platelets have a five-day shelf life.
“Within the military we would always consider innovations in medical practice.
“But it would only be attractive if it had proven benefit and safety in humans.”