While cloth gauze has been the standard since World War I, a new high-tech gauze may soon be saving lives

Nanoparticles are one of the hottest fields of studies.  These tiny molecules promise to revolutionize everything from medicine, to computing, to power, to water purification.  The diverse uses being discovered are only limited by the difficulties in bringing this incredibly promising technology to market.

Now the scientific community is enthralled by a perhaps unexpected new use of the particles -- high-tech gauze.  By using a special gauze fabric, permeated with Kaolin clay which is rich in aluminosilicate nanoparticles, scientists have discovered they can dramatically improve the chances of inducing clotting yielding results that are nothing short of a medical miracles.

The gauze bandage is easy to apply and greatly improves clotting in hard to apply regions such as the neck or groin.  This makes it ideal for the battlefield.  In recent conflicts, such as the Iraq war, many of the casualties have been due to blood loss.  The new gauze could soon be saving lives. 

Richard McCarron, head of trauma and resuscitative medicine at the Naval Medical Research Center in Maryland stated, "We are currently testing bandages because hemorrhage is a leading cause of death in military trauma patients.  The recent tests with Combat Gauze indicate that it decreased blood loss and improved survival."

Z-Medica, a medical products company located in Connecticut, manufactures the high tech gauze.  Z-Medica CEO Ray Huey says the new gauze has already saved two lives.  Huey describes his company's start, stating, "In 2002, following the September 11 attacks, the military was looking at new technologies to stop bleeding."

The company easily won the Navy's test of high-tech medical products, according to Huey, when Z-Medica debuted its first product, QuikClot, a special powder dumped on wounds to induce clotting.  The powder is currently in use in Afghanistan and Iraq.  However, despite saving lives QuikClot had some nasty side effects.  During the clotting process, the powder heated up enough to cause burns, which many of the soldiers complained of.  While burns were better than dying, Z-Medica went back to work looking for a better solution.

A leading materials researcher Galen Stucky led a team of several graduate students and collaborated with Z-Medica to solve the problem.  Stucky's solution was to instead use a material frequently used in medical testing -- Kaolin Clay.  The clay's nanoparticles trigger clotting.

Graduate student April Sawvel explains, "Kaolin clay has been used since the 1950s as an activating agent for a clotting test that medical doctors routinely perform.  We tested it against the original granular QuikClot and discovered that it worked just as well, but without the large heat release associated with the original QuikClot formulation."

While some nanoparticles are thought to possibly be hazardous, there is little known risk from aluminosilicate nanoparticles, which mankind has been in contact with since its early days.  Further, the nanoparticles are trapped by the clot at the site of the injury, so should have little chance of traveling into the body.

Having found the new material the team found that it was much easier to use it, when it was added to gauze, instead of a powder.  Huey describes, "We immediately started looking at ways to impregnate gauze with this material.  We very quickly prototyped some material. When I say very quickly, I mean within less than two weeks."

Now the company is commercially producing the gauze for Special Forces operators, the Coast Guard, and emergency-room doctors.  In a medical trial, the gauze stopped bleeding of a normally fatal cut to the aorta of a pig's heart (video).  Pigs share common anatomy and physiology in many ways to humans, so this shows the power of the new product.

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