A newly developed polymer bolsters the body’s ability to create blood clots.

Anyone who’s seen a medical drama or a cop show knows that heavy bleeding means your beloved character is about to die. Not that the television shows are entirely accurate, but significant blood loss is justly cause for grave concern. As many 40 percent of deaths from traumatic injury are a result of hemorrhaging.

While tourniquets, sealing gels and surgical procedures are widely used in the medical community to curb blood loss, a new injectable solution could help treat more trauma patients.

Researchers at the University of Washington developed a polymer, called PolySTAT, which promotes clotting to stop bleeding, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

Ordinarily, platelets group together around the injury, reinforced by a protein called fibrin, to make a clot and stop bleeding during a minor cut. But this system doesn’t work when bleeding becomes too heavy. The platelets leave the body too quickly to make strong clots.

When injected, PolySTAT seeks out the fibrin to help strengthen the clot. Since it works with the body’s fibrin specifically, that means the injection won’t lead to clots all over the body, only where one is already being formed.

So far it’s proved successful in animal trials. Tested in rats with a cut femoral artery — the important one in the leg — only half survived without the injection whereas 100 percent lived after a shot of PolySTAT.

Although these initial results appear promising, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Along with testing the drug’s safety, the next step is to test the product on larger animals with different kind of wounds, The Verge reports. But if all goes according to plan, this polymer has the potential to make a big difference in traumatic injuries. Since the solution does not require refrigeration, it can be carried into the field and treat suffering patients on the spot. 

Top photo credit: Leslie Chan/University of Washington