Tiny particles propel themselves upstream to stop severe internal bleeding

Image showing a carbonate particle releasing carbon dioxide and propelling at a high velocity through an aqueous solution(Credit: James Baylis/University of British Columbia)

Though materials have been developed that clot blood in order to slow bleeding, when the bleeding is internal things get a little more complicated. The flow of blood makes it difficult to deliver these agents upstream to the site of the injury, but now a team of Canadian researchers says it may have a solution. It has developed a micro-sized particle that produces gas to propel itself against the tide.

"Bleeding is the number one killer of young people, and maternal death from postpartum hemorrhage can be as high as one in 50 births in low resource settings so these are extreme problems," says Christian Kastrup, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia.

Postpartum hemorrhaging occurs in the mother within the first 24 hours of giving birth as a result of complications with the uterus, and typically involves a loss of blood upwards of 500 ml (0.13 gal).

Kastrup led a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia in developing an agent to treat this critical bleeding. He says it works in much the same way as an antacid tablet. In powder form, the agent consists of calcium carbonate particles measuring about one micron in size, which release carbon dioxide gas when they are immersed in an aqueous solution.

The carbonates form porous micro-particles that stick to a synthetic clotting compound called tranexamic acid and carry it upstream. The powder was first observed in the lab and then in two animal models. One test was designed to replicate the effects of a gunshot wound, in which the particles proved highly effective in stopping the bleeding.

Though the early results are promising, the team says that further testing and development of the agent is required before it is ready for market. It's imagined that it will eventually be put to use in treating other forms of internal bleeding such as those resulting from car accidents or combat injuries.

The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

You can hear from Kastrup in the video below.

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