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DARPA's expanding foam staunches internal bleeding

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To staunch internal bleeding in soldiers wounded on the battlefield, the U.S. military is testing an injectable foam that expands inside the body. Businessweek reports.

Working with funding from the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Massachusetts-based Arsenal Medical Inc. has developed an injectable foam that pushes past bleeding and molds itself around injured organs.

The technology could also save civilians injured in accidents before they arrive at a hospital.

The foam starts as two liquids in a canister. When injected through the navel, the liquids mix and expand 30 times the original volume, spreading through the abdominal cavity while conforming to tissue surfaces. The solid foam applies pressure on internal injuries.

Since this particular foam – a polyurethane polymer -- isn’t attracted to water, it pushes through pooled blood to an injury site. You can watch a video here.

The time for adequate response is often measured in minutes. These actions might provide as much as an additional three hours to get soldiers to care or car accident victims to a hospital. Sometimes, these injuries may not be visible to field medics, and they can’t be sure how complex the wounds are.

Lots of people have tackled the bleeding problem for the last 25 years and mostly failed. The material has already been tested in pigs, where the foam increased the rate of survival at three hours post-injury to 72 percent from the 8 percent observed in controls. A surgeon can remove the foam in less than a minute.

DARPA recently awarded a $15.5 million Phase II contract to Arsenal. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration green-lights the project -- perhaps as early as next year -- Arsenal plans to test the foam using a small group of trained special-forces medics.

[Via Businessweek, DARPA]

Image: DARPA

— By on December 13, 2012, 6:16 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure