Alga-Based Compound Promises Less Bleeding On The Battlefield

May 17, 1999

Previous efforts to reduce bleeding on the battlefield have been unsuccessful, but a new product derived from microscopic plants that live in the ocean may provide the solution. With ONR support, Marine Polymer Technologies of Danvers, Mass., has identified a compound with the ability to induce blood clot formation. The compound, poly-n-acetyl glucosamine, is effective at stopping blood loss from severely bleeding wounds even though it does not contain any of the proteins that are normally associated with clot formation, such as fibrin or thrombin.

Produced in a paper thin sheet that can be attached to a dressing, the product is prepared from a highly pure natural compound derived from the sterile culture and processing of a marine alga. The product is lightweight, easy to transport, and has a shelf life of up to two years. It is not derived from human or animal sources, thus it presents less of a risk for disease transmission.

An added feature of the bandage is that the material can easily be separated from the clotted surface of a wound 10-90 minutes after application, without causing re-bleeding. This feature is attractive to the Navy & Marine Corps as injured individuals are usually transported away from the battlefield to a trauma hospital for surgery.

The bandage stops bleeding rapidly due to its unique mechanism of action; it seals the wound and the red blood cells form a plug as they come into contact with the bandage material. This stops the bleeding, usually within seconds. The formation of the red blood cell plug in turn leads to a high local concentration of platelets and clotting factors, resulting in the formation of a normal clot in a normal time frame.

This product is a considerable improvement the existing technology for dressings. Currently a gauze type material that has no inherent ability to stop bleeding is held over a wound and pressure is applied to stop the loss of blood. The dressing alone is unreliable for hemorrhage control.

Other products are presently in development by other agencies that also promote hemostasis, but they contain clot inducing proteins that are derived from human blood. With such products there is a risk of disease transmission. The product being developed for the Navy does not have human proteins and therefore, presents less of a risk for disease transmission. Also, the bandage is much cheaper to produce due to its source and ease of manufacture.

In addition to use on the battlefield, commercial application for the technology exists in the pre-hospital care arena, including emergency vehicles at accidents and sports related injuries. Further application of the technology may include the cessation of bleeding associated with cardiac catheterization related to angioplasty and angiography, as well as in kidney dialysis.

Pending full review and approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the product will be available for general use.

Office of Naval Research

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