Friday, December 14, 2012

Using foam to stop internal bleeding

The wages of war have resulted in the deaths of many people. For everybody's sake, it would be better to stop fighting altogether, but this does not seem to be realistic. That is why new technology is developed to keep people alive on the battlefield. A recent example is a piece of nanotechnology from MIT that is capable of stopping external bleeding almost instantly. Now, researchers affiliated with DARPA have developed something that could rapidly arrest internal bleeding, in an attempt to keep wounded soldiers alive and get them to a hospital.

DARPA's novel technology is based on two chemicals that react when they come in contact with each other. It creates something that resembles foam, which blocks the internal bleeding when injected into the body. It has been shown to significantly increase the survival rate in animal studies on internal bleeding, although it has not been tested yet in human beings. A video shows how the foam works: it forms some sort of shell covering the abdomen, and apparently this rapid filling of the chest cavities is not harmful by itself.
Because of their successful attempts, the US extended the existing funding for this project. The scientists involved are allowed to spend around 15,5 million dollars for new studies on their foam technology, which brings the total investment to around 22,5 million dollars. With this money, the scientists will attempt to start a clinical trial, which means the foam will be tested in humans. It is unclear how this will be put in practice: perhaps field medics will be supplied with the experimental foam chemicals, for use when conventional options are not sufficient.

The technology is being developed for DARPA, which is part of the US Department of Defense. It is supposed to be used on the battlefield, in order to keep soldiers that got wounded in combat alive until they reach a hospital. However, it is likely that it can also be used in other medical circumstances. In case of heavy internal bleeding, the newly developed foam could prove to be more successful that conventional methods, but this remains to be investigated.

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