On a war-torn street of the future, an American soldier lies sprawled, unsure if a nearby blast has harmed him. Is there internal bleeding? He carries an injector containing artificial platelets, which will augment his body’s normal clotting mechanism and curtail any hemorrhaging. Yet the injection will be harmless if he has escaped injury.
“You don’t want a soldier or medic to stress,” says Thomas Barker, a biomedical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “ ‘If I inject this, am I causing myself harm?’ We wanted to take the decision out of the hands of the soldier.”
Supported by a U.S. Department of Defense grant, the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, Barker and his team have created what they call platelet-like particles, or PLPs, according to a study published in Nature Materials. Already, the team has successfully tested these particles in lab rats and in miniature tubes of human blood.