The most commonly used method for sealing wounds is suturing. However, in emergency situations, sutures are not the best option because they take a long time to apply. For years, scientists have been working on alternative methods for sealing wounds. Other methods and materials used to stop bleeding have been available for the past few years, but these options require several minutes to seal a wound and many times do not work at all if the would is bleeding heavily.

In their search, scientists realized that barnacles, which are small animals, can effectively attach themselves to wet slimy surfaces, such as rocks, shells, boats, and other slick mammals. Generally speaking, it is very difficult to find a material that is able to stick to wet dirty surfaces. Analysis of what barnacles use to stick to these items revealed a very unique substance – sticky protein molecules suspended in an oil that repels water and other elements. This makes it possible for the adhesive to get to the surface and strongly adhere to it.

The research team imitated this process by altering an existing polymer-based adhesive. They embedding it with an organic compound, an NHS ester, for additional adhesion, and a sugar which adds strength. They froze the mixture in sheets and ground it into microparticles. They then suspended the particles in silicone oil.

They found that when the mixture is applied to a wet surface, the material works just like on the barnacle – the oil repels the liquid (blood) and any other contaminant present, and allows the adhesive to seal tightly on the wound. With gentle pressure applied, the bleeding stops and the wound is sealed in 15-30 seconds. And the sealing holds for several weeks with little inflammation. The glue is can either be removed using a solution that dissolves it, in case surgery is needed on the wound. Or it is slowly absorbed into the body. Researchers see more applications in the future for larger wounds or controlling bleeding during surgery.

The uses of polymers appear to be infinite. Companies continually work to develop polymer compounds that meet the needs of the industry. The Polymers Center is here to help those companies. Our research and development lab can help test and analyze materials, and our processing equipment and expertise help develop the processes for production.

The Polymers Center assists companies with the development of new polymer materials, processes and products. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your polymer challenge.