Researchers are zeroing in on a pair of approaches to saving victims of gunshots and other traumas from bleeding to death before they reach a hospital, the Baltimore Banner reports. Allan Doctor, lead researcher of one study and director of the Center for Blood Oxygen Transport and Hemostasis at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said between 20,000 and 25,000 people in the U.S. who suffer severe trauma will die of blood loss before ever reaching the hospital. His team is developing an artificial blood product that can be administered to patients “at the point of injury,” whether that’s the site of a motor vehicle accident or the scene of a shooting.
Doctor and his team recently received $46 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, for a four-year project to develop and test artificial blood, with the idea that it can be used to save soldiers with combat injuries. The blood product will be shelf-stable for long periods of time and able to withstand extreme temperatures, Doctor said, whereas real human blood must be kept refrigerated and has a shelf life of just 42 days. This is why transfusions don’t take place “in the field,” or in ambulances, he said, because the right storage conditions aren’t practical and blood is both too scarce and too needed to risk wasting. Some trauma victims do make it to the hospital but suffer cardiac arrest from blood loss minutes prior to arrival or after they get there. Samuel Tisherman, director of the surgical ICU at the University of Maryland Medical Center, leads a team testing another novel, but perhaps counterintuitive, way to buy them time. The procedure is called emergency preservation and resuscitation, or EPR. A medical team induces hypothermia in the trauma victim by pumping the body with icy saline and quickly lowering its temperature to 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This places the patient in a state of so-called “suspended animation” where the brain’s need for oxygen supplied by blood flow is reduced. Tisherman hopes to conclude the study by the end of this year or in 2024, and will then release results.