Nanotechnology good for synthetic blood

Nanomaterials have been in use for decades. But you never saw the term “nanoparticles” in such up-close-and-personal products as eyeliner. Manufacturers didn’t think at that point it was necessary to point out such an unusual ingredient.

Today nanotechnology is increasingly used for making bio-materials–things that can be applied to or used in the human body. One of the latest successes is artificial nano-blood platelets. They say these synthetic platelets are made of nanomaterials already well-known and proven-safe in the medical device and drug products.

Surprisingly, the study cites traumatic injury as the “top cause of death for people ages 5 to 44.” It also says that “blood loss is the major factor for military and civilian trauma deaths.” Here’s the fascinating short version of how these platelets are manufactured:

The researchers started with a polymer, or tiny pieces of plastic, made out of the same material used in dissolving stitches. It was surrounded by another polymer that can be dissolved in water that is used in the food and drug industries. They then covered the particle in small molecules that act like hooks, allowing it to bond with platelets in the blood. They only bond with platelets that are working to stop the bleeding, not other platelets in the body.

The platelets have several advantages over donated blood. They can be stored at room temperature instead of requiring refrigeration. They can be given by any medical professional–say, at an accident site–rather than requiring the patient to go to a hospital. They can also be stored significantly longer than live blood products.

Rats in the study stopped bleeding in half the time with these new platelets, but rats aren’t people. More research and testing needs to be done before nano-blood platelets will start being used for humans.

Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be the first human to receive plastic blood platelets. Makes me think of the 1966 sci-fi thriller Fantastic Voyage–only this time it’s human inventions invading the bloodstream instead of shrunken humans. Can blood clot too efficiently? It’ll be interesting to see what other cautions arise as research goes forward.

Image credit: Crystal