While experimenting with the liquid during brain surgery, the researchers discovered that some of the peptides could also stop bleeding, Ellis-Behnke said. He foresees that the material could be of great use during surgery, especially surgery that is done in a messy environment such as a battlefield. A fast and reliable way to stop bleeding during surgery would allow surgeons better access and better visibility during the operation.
"The time to perform an operation could potentially be reduced by up to 50 percent," said Ellis-Behnke.
Unlike some methods now used for hemostasis, the new materials can be used in a wet environment. And unlike some other agents, it does not induce an immune response in the animals being treated.
When the solution containing the peptides is applied to bleeding wounds, the peptides self-assemble into a gel that essentially seals over the wound, without harming the nearby cells. Even after excess gel is removed, the wound remains sealed. The gel eventually breaks down into amino acids, the building blocks for proteins, which can be used by surrounding cells.
The exact mechanism of the solutions' action is still unknown, but the researchers believe the peptides interact with the extracellular matrix surrounding the cells. "It is a completely new way to stop bleeding; whether it produces a physical barrier is unclear at this time," Ellis-Behnke said.
The researchers are confident, however, that the material does not work by inducing blood clotting. Clotting generally takes at least 90 seconds to start, and the researchers found no platelet aggregation, a telltale sign of clotting.
Other MIT researchers who are co-authors on the paper are Gerald Schneider, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and Shuguang Zhang, associate director of MIT's Center for Biomedical Engineering. C
Source:Massachusetts Institute of Technology