Reginald Avery, a fifth-year graduate student at MIT in the Department of Biological Engineering, developing an injectable material for patching and preventing severe blood loss. He is conducting research on a biomaterial that could stop wounded soldiers from dying from shock due to severe blood loss.

The biomaterial that he developing is a hydrogel that consists of gelatin proteins and inorganic silica nanoparticles. These incorporated materials function as a substrate and help the biomaterial to accelerate coagulation rates and reduce clotting times.

Along with Ali Khademhosseini at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and others at Massachusetts General Hospital, Avery further developed the material so that it could be injected into ruptured blood vessels. Like a cork on a wine bottle, the biomaterial forms a plug in the leaky vessel and prevent severe blood loss.

Avery said, “The old techniques for preventing severe blood loss don’t take advantage of tissue engineering. It can be difficult for a surgeon to deliver metallic coils and beads to the targeted site, and blood may sometimes still find a path through and result in re-bleeding. It’s also expensive, and some techniques have a finite time period to place the material where it needs to be.”

“We wanted to use a hydrogel that could completely fill a vessel and not allow any leakage to occur through that injury site.”

While testing it on animals, scientists did not find any inflammatory side-effects or the formation of clots elsewhere in the animal’s circulatory system.

Scientists noted, it can be injected easily with a syringe or catheter. Some in vitro experiments, the material is found as useful for treating aneurysms.

He said, “I wanted to do something related to the military because I grew up around that environment. The people, the uniformed soldiers, and the well-controlled atmosphere created a good environment to grow up. And I wanted to still contribute in some way to that community.”

Now Avery is eager to see his material put to use to save lives.

He said, “I’m comfortable doing a thorough study in vitro to characterize materials or design some synthetic tests prior to in vivo testing. You must be very confident in (the biomaterial) before getting to that step so that you’re effectively utilizing the animals, or even more important. You’re not putting a person at risk if something finally does get to that point.”