A Blood Transfusion in a Pill

Well, not quite, but close.

Got a tip from a reader about a potentially revolutionary new drug that could prolong the life of a human who’s bleeding out from a severe wound.

According to an article in the New Scientist, medical professionals are experimenting on a pill that can trick the body into thinking it’s not in shock when it really is. In other words, the drug can prevent certain mechanisms within the proteins and DNA from permanently breaking down and causing long-term damage when the victim is resuscitated.

When the body loses a lot of blood, it tries to compensate by going into shock. This is a set of emergency measures to raise blood pressure and conserve energy, such as increasing heart rate and shutting down expression of some proteins. However, if the body stays in shock for more than a short time, it can lead to organ failure, and death soon follows.

Recent studies have suggested that around 6 or 7 per cent of genes change their expression in response to shock, via the removal of “epigenetic”, chemical additions to the genome called acetylations. As histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors can prevent the removal of such acetylations, Alam wondered if these drugs might improve survival after blood loss.

His team previously showed that valproic acid, an HDAC inhibitor already used to treat epilepsy, increased survival rates in rats that had lost a lot of blood. It seemed to be doing this by preventing acetylation, causing certain “survival pathways” to remain switched on.

The combat medical applications for a drug like this are obvious. The US military has already done an amazing job at lowering the death rate of troopers wounded in hideous explosions and ambushes, including the near ubiquitous fielding and training on the use of tourniquets and lots of combat first aid training. The military medical establishment has also done a lot to speed the process of getting an IED-struck Joe, for example, from route Michigan in Ramadi to Ramstein in literally hours.

But a breakthrough like this could mean the difference between life and death for wounded troopers in more remote locals with fewer medivac options, like Afghanistan. If this proves to work, it could be as revolutionary at Quik Clot and pocket tourniquets.

— Christian

  • Joe Buff

    This is a superb development! No effort should be spared in aiding our Troops injured in combat.

    This could eventually be a boon to civilian trauma care by 911 Paramedics, too, such as in car wrecks or shootings & stabbings.

  • Marine1

    If you look close there is a Bible Verse on that syringe it says “32JN8:12″…HUMMMMMMMM

  • ohwilleke

    Of course, this is also the sort of development that, if proven in a battlefield setting, has wide application for civilian EMTs all over the world.

  • Jay

    The Bible-verse joke is getting boring already… In other news, this is definately a good thing for our troops.

  • pilsner

    A lot of the stuff we do as combat medics will NOT transfer to the civilian EMS arena very well at all. This is because the goal if civilian EMS is not to save lives but rather to not get sued. The liability of being a civilian EMS provider is so great that it changes how they do treatments.
    Want proof? Ask a good, experienced EMT in your city what he does first at a car wreck; does he secure C-spine or check for arterial bleeding? The answer is secure C-spine (C-spine securing is the placement of the neck collar so that IF you have a neck injury you do not end up becoming paralized while being moved/treated).
    Now ask a military medic with combat experience what he checks first; the answer is always arterial bleeding. The logic is that an arterial bleed from femoral/brachial artery will kill you within less than 3 mins but you can live a LONG time with a fractured neck. A C-collar does almost nothing to keep you alive but it does reduce the chances of the EMT/EMT service getting sued if somebody ends up an octopalegic from an overzealous EMT/firefighter extracting you from your wrecked vehicle.
    See the difference?
    In most states an EMT can NOT administer ANY medications (except oxygen) no matter how much you need that medication. A pill to combat shock would fall into that “too-high liability” catagory. It does sound like it has some fantastic applications for the military medical system however.

  • Warrior Spirit

    Outstanding post, Pilsner, and dead-on accurate. Sad but true – one more example of the poor state of civilian culture vice military culture.

  • stephen russell

    Test with city FD EMTs in high crime zones , then test in the VA,
    Issue to NATO forces & then our forces in Afganistan.
    Must produce this.
    For Home & overseas.
    ALL PD forces should be issued same

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Evening Folks,

    What’s to test. This medication is a last resort, the alternate is bleeding to death. As a soldier who in another war who came with in two minutes I was told of bleeding to death, I fully endorse this “pill”. It doesn’t take long for you 7 pints of blood to drain out.

    Get it in the field.

    Byron Skinner

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