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Self-Propelled Particles Designed to Stop Bleeding

Carbonate particle releasing carbon dioxide

Carbonate particle releasing carbon dioxide and moving at high speed (James Baylis, University of British Columbia)

2 October 2015. A biochemistry lab designed microscale particles that travel on their own through the body to stop heavy bleeding in trauma victims, surgery, and childbirth. Researchers at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada led by biochemistry and engineering professor Christian Kastrup, published their findings in today’s issue of the journal Science Advances.

Kastrup and colleagues — including medical and engineering associates from UBC, University of Washington, and Massachusetts General Hospital — are seeking a simple and effective method for surgeons and emergency physicians and technicians to deliver coagulants to stop the blood flow at bleeding sites. This can be difficult when blood flow is heavy, pushing coagulants away from the site, or if bleeding takes place internally.

“People have developed hundreds of agents that can clot blood,” says Kastrup in a university statement, “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.” In addition, conventional methods for stopping blood flow are often not effective, when the bleeding site is inside the body, such as in the uterus or abdomen.

The solution from Kastrup’s lab is a delivery technology with porous microparticles of calcium carbonate, a simple and common substance sometimes taken as an antacid or calcium dietary supplement. Calcium carbonate releases carbon dioxide, which the researchers found could propel the particles. The team also discovered that the porous particles could be infused with tranexamic acid, a compound used in surgery, childbirth, and trauma care to control bleeding.

In lab tests and simulations, the team found the carbon dioxide released by the calcium carbonate could move the microparticles through still fluids and upstream against the flow of fluids, including saline solutions and whole blood, moving as fast as 1.5 centimeters per second. The particles’ movement is aided by their buoyancy as well as convection currents generated by the gas bubbles.

The researchers also tested the microparticle powder with simulated injuries in lab animals. For these tests, the team infused the particles with thrombin, an enzyme converting clotting factors to fibrin that combines with platelets to coagulate and stop bleeding. These simulations included amputation of a mouse’s tail and puncturing of a femoral artery, a major blood vessel in the thigh, where the powder proved effective in stopping the blood flows.

While more development and testing is needed, the research team believes their discovery can be applied to combat wounds, as well as some surgery and childbirth where bleeding may not be immediately visible. “The area we’re really focusing on is postpartum hemorrhage,” says Kastrup, “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.”

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