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Shrimp Cocktail May Save Lives
Army medics dress bullet wounds with the same gauze bandage you have in your medicine cabinet at home, the same gauze that’s been used for centuries. But all gauze can do is soak up blood. It does not actually stop bleeding, and is useless for staving off the types of injuries that can cause someone to bleed to death in a few minutes.
But now, scientists have created a bandage that is actually able to clot a bullet wound in less than a minute. The bandages are laced with a mixture of ground shrimp shells and vinegar, a concoction that has been found to clot blood instantly. The key ingredient in the shrimp shells is called chitosan.
“Chitosan is a ubiquitous substance,” says Dr. Kenton Gregory, a cardiologist from Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, OR. “It’s the second most abundant substance on the planet.” Chitosan is found in the shells of other crustaceans besides shrimp, and also in insect shells.
The bandages were developed by HemCon, Inc., which develops and markets technologies to control severe bleeding for traumatic skin and organ injuries. Gregory, who co-founded HemCon, says chitosan interacts with our blood cells because its molecules carry a positive charge. “The outer membrane of a red blood cell has a negative charge," he explains, "and opposite charges attract. The red cell is attracted to the positively-charged chitosan, and when it touches, it fuses and forms a blood clot.” When a clot forms, the bleeding stops. And unlike a regular bandage, which slips off when wet, the HemCon bandage becomes adhesive and sticks to the wet wound site, sealing and stabilizing it.