Helps Identify MIAs - A U.S. lab is using new techniques to
ensure that any unidentified remains of soldiers missing in action
are returned to their families.
Tech Army Togs - Today’s soldiers are armed with so
many high-tech gadgets that they’re advertised as "an
army of one." Now it looks like one of those high-tech devices
may be the uniform itself. (10/23/02)
While soldiers have more high-tech equipment at their disposal than ever before,
the number one cause of death on the battlefield is still a very human one:
But, as this ScienCentral News video reports, that may change with the arrival
of a new, high-tech bandage.
Shrimp Cocktail May Save Lives
Army medics dress bullet wounds with the same gauze bandage you have in your
medicine cabinet at home, the same gauze that’s been used
for centuries. But all gauze can do is soak up blood. It does not actually
stop bleeding, and is useless for staving off the types of injuries that can
cause someone to bleed to death in a few minutes.
But now, scientists have created a bandage that is actually able to clot a
bullet wound in less than a minute. The bandages are laced with a mixture
of ground shrimp shells and vinegar, a concoction that has been found to clot
blood instantly. The key ingredient in the shrimp shells is called chitosan.
“Chitosan is a ubiquitous substance,” says Dr.
Kenton Gregory, a cardiologist from Providence
St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, OR. “It’s the second
most abundant substance on the planet.” Chitosan is found in the shells
of other crustaceans besides shrimp, and also in insect shells.
The bandages were developed by HemCon,
Inc., which develops and markets technologies to control severe bleeding
for traumatic skin and organ injuries. Gregory, who co-founded HemCon, says
chitosan interacts with our blood cells because its molecules carry a positive
charge. “The outer membrane of a red blood cell has a negative charge,"
he explains, "and opposite charges attract. The red cell is attracted
to the positively-charged chitosan, and when it touches, it fuses and forms
a blood clot.” When a clot forms, the bleeding stops. And unlike a regular
bandage, which slips off when wet, the HemCon bandage becomes adhesive and
sticks to the wet wound site, sealing and stabilizing it.
“Bleeding is the single largest cause of death on the battlefield,”
says Jim Hensel, President and CEO of HemCon. “The technology that exists
today prior to the HemCon bandage is a compression bandage and a tourniquet,
which is the same thing used in the Civil War, the Revolutionary Way, and
frankly, the Trojan War.”
Not Just for Soldiers
While the bandages are currently being produced exclusively for the military,
Hensel is aiming for the civilian market. “We’d like to hope that
everyone will put one of these in their glove box, and in their tackle box,
and have several in their home.”
He also sees many other ways to use them, including in the operating room.
“This bandage is made out of bio-compatible materials, which means that
we can make an implantable device. In two or three years, after we do more
testing and clinical trials, we believe that this product will be used as
the mechanical closure for soft tissue injuries—injuries such as liver,
spleen, and lung—all of which are difficult to repair.”
Besides of its blood clotting ability, chitosan may have another practical
use. Dr. Gregory’s research shows that chitosan also binds bacteria
and may kill them. His team poured bacteria onto the bandages, and when they
checked under the microscope, the bacteria were all dead. “Although
we are not formally claiming that these bandages kill bacteria,” says
Dr. Gregory, “the research is there to support it.”
For now, 400 HemCon bandages have already shipped to the U.S. Army, and five
were sent directly to the White House. And there’s a supply of 26,500
bandages that will go to the U.S. government over the next several months.
“We’ve developed these bandages so you could treat yourself,”
explains Dr. Gregory. “If you got shot in the arm or the leg, you could
literally open one of these packages with your teeth and one hand, and just
put it on, put pressure on the wound, and it should stop the bleeding.”