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Fighting Terror with Nanotechnology

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Science Translational Medicine  30 Jul 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 247, pp. 247ec133
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3010117

An unfortunate consequence of modern combat and the rise of global terrorism is the increased incidence of blast injuries worldwide. Whether from accidental explosions or from improvised explosive devices, these trauma-inducing injuries are extremely difficult to treat. Concussive overpressurization from the blast wave can cause massive damage to internal organs and profuse internal bleeding. To date, no therapies exist to rapidly treat such devastating injuries. Now, Lashof-Sullivan et al. report on a nanoparticle that might be effective in treating blast injuries by reducing bleeding.

The nano-hemostat, developed in the laboratory of E. Lavik, measures only 500 nm in diameter. These nanoparticles decrease bleeding by displaying multiple platelet-binding sequences, thus simulating the natural activation and cross-linking activity of platelets during blood clot formation. The investigators used an experimental compressed-air model to expose rats to rapid overpressurization estimated to be equivalent to experiencing a 10-kg trinitrotoluene (TNT) blast from 5 m away. Injection of the nano-hemostat into mouse veins immediately after injury improved survival to 95%, compared with 60% survival in untreated rats. The particles were also found to concentrate in the lung, where there was a trend toward decreased bleeding within tissues. No long-term adverse effects from the nano-hemostat were observed for up to 3 weeks after injection.

Survival was not significantly different between the nano-hemostat–treated and other control groups, such as activated clotting factor VII. Thus, further testing is required to fully understand the mechanism behind the nanoparticle’s effectiveness relative to untreated rats. However, this new work might be the beginning of our ability to treat life-threatening injuries from big blasts by using the tiniest of weapons.

M. M. Lashof-Sullivan et al., Intravenously administered nanoparticles increase survival following blast trauma. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 111, 10293–10298 (2014). [Abstract]

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