Excessive bleeding is, in some sense, an engineering problem.
“For us, everything is a machine, even a human body,” says Hyunwoo Yuk, a research scientist in mechanical engineering at MIT. “They are malfunctioning and breaking, and we have some mechanical way to solve it.”
About 1.9 million people die every year from blood loss, sometimes from trauma, sometimes on the operating table. Bleeding bodies are wet, prone to infection, and need urgent care. Yet it’s hard to create a seal on wet tissue, and most commercial products used to stop dangerous bleeding rely on coagulants which take minutes to work. Some people don’t have minutes.
For the last seven years, Yuk’s team has been developing an entirely different approach to stopping bleeding: glue. More specifically, glue inspired by barnacles. Yuk says barnacles hold an evolutionary solution to the problem of sticking to surfaces that are resistant to getting stuck. In a study published this month in Nature Biomedical Engineering, his team demonstrated how this arthropod-like glue can stop bleeding in seconds.