Bioengineered material to rapidly stop bleeding in patients on blood thinners

A next-generation hemostat that effectively stops bleeding.

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Hemostatic devices are critical for managing emergent severe bleeding. With the increased use of anticoagulant therapy, there is a need for next-generation hemostats.

Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital created a special material to stop bleeding faster, even in patients taking blood-thinning medication. They made a sponge-like material that absorbs a lot of blood and helps the clotting process. In tests during heart procedures, it stopped bleeding in about five minutes, much quicker than the usual method that can take over two hours.

Corresponding author Hae Lin Jang, PhD, of the Center for Engineered Therapeutics said, “This is a next-generation hemostat that effectively stops bleeding, even in patients who take anticoagulation or antiplatelet medications. We used an exciting, interdisciplinary approach that combines engineering principles, materials science, and understandings of molecular biology to overcome the limitations of existing therapies and address a real clinical need.”

Every year, more than 5 million people worldwide die due to trauma, and a third of these deaths are because of uncontrollable bleeding. To address this, a team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital used a smart design approach to create a better hemostat, a substance that stops bleeding. They mimicked the structure of human lungs to develop a material with tiny interconnected pores, inspired by air sacs called alveoli. This design quickly absorbs blood and helps clotting.

They used chitosan, derived from shellfish, for this material. Chitosan is already known for attracting clotting components. The researchers found that it not only attracts but also directly stimulates blood clotting, making it effective even for patients on blood-thinning medication. In tests with 70 patients undergoing heart procedures, bleeding stopped in about five minutes for those on low-dose heparin and under nine minutes for those on higher doses.

The new material has additional benefits. It’s easy to apply and remove, eliminating the need for strong compression, which is time-consuming and uncomfortable. Unlike traditional gauze, the chitosan pad is removed cleanly, causing less pain to patients and reducing the chances of bleeding recurrence. The researchers are now studying how wounds heal after using this hemostat and exploring advanced wound dressings that may deliver drugs or enhance wound cleanliness, reducing the need for frequent changes.

First author Vivian K. Lee, PhD, of the Center for Engineered Therapeutics said, “This hemostat can save valuable time in emergency situations. In emergencies, it can be extremely challenging to screen the prescription information of a patient to provide appropriate anticoagulation reversal therapy to patients on anticoagulants. If a hemostat can bypass a medication’s anticoagulating mechanisms, it can be used in a wide range of patients, saving time, and potentially saving lives.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Lee, VK et al. “An architecturally rational hemostat for rapid stopping of massive bleeding on anticoagulation therapy” PNAS DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2316170121

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