When heavy bleeding occurs, it is difficult to ensure that the wound heals quickly. About 1.9 million people die of blood loss each year. Thanks to scientists from MIT, this number may decrease rapidly. They managed to make an adhesive that can seal a bleeding wound in just 15 seconds. Barnacles became the inspiration for the production of glue. These animals can adhere perfectly to any surface, be it a rock, a metal hull or the wet skin of a whale.

Barnacle oil

Current methods to stop bleeding only work when the skin is dry and therefore ineffective during heavy bleeding. However, scientists have now made a paste that adheres firmly to moist tissue by repelling blood. Hyunwoo Yuk, a mechanical engineering scientist at MIT, and his colleagues were inspired by glue that uses barnacles to stick to any surface. Barnacles use oil to attach, which is a cocktail of various lipids. This oil removes impurities from the surface and prepares it for adhesion with the biocenment, which solidifies quickly. “So basically they are terraforming the target substrate,” Yuk says, priming it for a fast, strong seal.

Quick stop of bleeding

Hyunwoo Yuk and his team tested the adhesive on both rats and pigs, especially liver and heart bleeding. The researchers applied the paste to the bleeding wound on the rat’s heart. The paste stopped the bleeding within 10 seconds. This is an incomparably better result than any product on the market. The glue was tested in many situations, it even managed to heal the pig’s aorta. The glue can hold the tissue even at high blood pressure.

Image credit: HYUNWOO YUK
Image credit: HYUNWOO YUK

“My overall impression of this material is that it’s incredible,” says Hanjay Wang to Wired Magazine, a resident in Stanford University’s Cardiothoracic Surgery Department who was not involved in the study. “It definitely fills a need, especially in the emergency setting, when you need to just get control.”

Some details still need to be fine-tuned in order to use the paste in common practice. Addressed surgeons, however, were fascinated by this adhesive.

Image credit: HYUNWOO YUK

“With aging populations, you have more and more patients that have either acquired bleeding disorders or are ultimately on blood thinners; the problem of bleeding, and bleeding control is substantial,” Christoph Nabzdyk, a cardiologist and critical care physician from Mayo.

Nature has become the inspiration for the production of many revolutionary inventions. Barnacles have become the inspiration for the production of glue that can save millions of lives. The present invention can completely change medical procedures and give physicians a powerful tool to save lives in heavy bleeding.

Links to the study can be found below:


Image credit: HYUNWOO YUK