Scientists say they have made a synthetic blood-clotting agent that could help wounded troops and patients by cutting bleeding time in half and offer surgeons a limitless supply with a longer shelf life than fresh donor platelets, Science Translational Medicine reports.
The materials that make up the composition of the fake platelets are already used in treatments approved by the U.S. regulators, which the scientists say should help speed wide-spread implementation. 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.
Natural blood platelets have a shelf life of only five days, part of the researchers’ aim is to develop a treatment that medics can keep in their packs in caring for wounded soldiers in the field.
Lavik feels the fake platelets could offer a viable solution and immediate treatment before transferring a soldier 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.