Weird world: nano proteins stop bleeding cold, even from a main artery
As part of its 10 Emerging Technologies report, Kevin Bullis writes about Nanohealing in Technology Review/NY Times
In the break room near his lab in MIT’ brand-new neuroscience building, research scientist Rutledge Ellis-Behnke provides impromptu narration for a video of himself performing surgery. In the video, Ellis-Behnke makes a deep cut in the liver of a rat, intentionally slicing through a main artery. As the liver pulses from the pressure of the rat’s beating heart, blood spills from the wound. Then Ellis-Behnke covers the wound with a clear liquid, and the bleeding stops almost at once. Untreated, the wound would have proved fatal, but the rat lived on.
The liquid Ellis-Behnke used is a novel material made of nanoscale protein fragments, or peptides. Its ability to stop bleeding almost instantly could be invaluable in surgery, at accident sites, or on the battlefield. Under conditions like those inside the body, the peptides self-assemble into a fibrous mesh that to the naked eye appears to be a transparent gel. Even more remarkably, the material creates an environment that may accelerate healing of damaged brain and spinal tissue.
Ellis-Behnke stumbled on the material’s capacity to stanch bleeding by chance, during experiments designed to help restore vision to brain-damaged hamsters.