Blood, made up of the vital components that underpin every reaction in the body, is always flowing through our vessels. Arguably the most important aspect of our survival, it follows logically that losing it is a massive problem. When cut slightly, a mere bandage suffices but in the case of a severe injury, we are drained of blood within minutes. All we can do is hold pressure. This extreme blood loss is exsanguination– leading to around 2 million deaths every year. Looking at litres of blood escape in vascular cuts or bullet wounds, Joseph Landolina proposed a neat solution.
Landolina entered a business competition just 17 years old, against graduates and professors, and proposed a gel that is applied on a wound: Vetigel. Vetigel is a plant-based polymer designed to solve the issue of blood loss. He invented the drug in his grandfathers’ lab in high school, and then developed it with his friend Isaac Miller in what would become the start of their company Cresilon Inc. Upon development, he tested the gel on a rat with a severed carotid artery. It was able to stop the rat’s haemorrhage in seconds. A lacerated carotid artery loses 20% of body fluid and Vetigel could inhibit this massively- showing the young pioneer the gravity of his work.
What does it do
First, it is important to understand the cascade of reactions that follow extreme blood loss:
- Hypothermia is a temperature drop in our bodies due to the decreased delivery of oxygen to cells due to less blood itself . This reduced oxygen uptake means metabolism drops too.
- Coagulopathy is when the low temperature is not suitable for enzymes to operate optimally- specifically clotting enzymes. And so, we are unable to restrict the loss of blood.
- Acidosis is the absence of blood-bound oxygen leading to the body’s cells exhausting glucose anaerobically. This causes the release of lactic acid into the blood stream, which lowers the blood’s pH.
Vetigel works with our body, specifically our extracellular matrix (ECM), to reverse this process. The ECM is a mesh of proteins and carbohydrates that is responsible for wound healing, from tissue development to the preservation of entire organs. The gel forms a matrix like the ECM and the body recognises and works with it to form a seal over the haemorrhage. It is then able to activate the coagulation system (that is weakening due to hypothermia) to form a strong clot over the wound. Blood squirting metres away every heart beat can become a sealed-off area in as little as 12 seconds.
With Vetigel, our organs are no longer deprived of blood, our body is no longer too cold for basic reactions to happen and conditions are almost entirely back to normal. A product that is preventing a severe haemorrhage in a matter of seconds is undoubtedly a product that will define the future.
“What Vetigel delivers in terms of time savings and convenience makes a huge – perhaps even life-or-death – difference.Joseph Landolina, inventor of Vetigel
Today, Vetigel is shipped in both the UK and US. But not for humans… yet. Despite the huge potential of Vetigel, it has still not cleared human trials, currently being used by veterinarians to tend to animals’ wounds. Landolina hopes one day Vetigel will be more than a veterinary tool. It will be in operating theatres, military camps and every soldier’s belt. In fact, he hopes to see Vetigel in every household. Today his hard work saves many animals from a painful death… Tomorrow, it will save countless soldiers from bleeding out on the battlefield… Tomorrow, it will save us from bleeding out in the back of an ambulance.
- HealthLine “Bleeding to Death” https://www.healthline.com/health/bleed ing-to-death
- Oxford Scientist “A Neat Solution to a Messy Problem” https://oxsci.org/a-neat-solution-to-a-messy-problem/
- Wired “Gel that can instantly stop bleeding heads to vet surgeries” https://www.wired.co.uk/article/blood-wound-healing-vetigel-on-sale-to-vets
- Wikipedia “Trauma triad of death” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trauma_triad_of_death
- The Independent “A 17-year-old invented an ingenious way to instantly stop bleeding” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/a-17-year-old-invented-an-ingenious-way-to-instantly-stop-bleeding-a8002956.html
- NCBI “Extracellular Matrix Remodelling in Human Disease” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6130245/
- Cresilon “Our Story” https://cresilon.com/our-story/