Chirag Gajjar, a doctoral student in Fiber and Polymer Science at NC State's College of Textiles, recently presented his research on 'smart bandages' at the Biomedical Engineering Society annual meeting. Originally from Surat, India, Gajjar became interested in textiles for medical use long before he came to United States. He believes that Medical Textiles is a field where a Textile Engineer can impact the life of human beings directly.
When he presented a paper on biotextiles during his undergraduate studies, he was asked what he would do as a Textile Engineer to improve people's life in India. Gajjar replied that ". . .if I had the resources, I would start a company making medical textile products; but for that I would need the technical knowledge and so I would go to advanced countries to learn more about this field." At the time, Gajjar had no plans to come to the United States for his graduate studies. But fate stepped in and, several years later, he is studying in his chosen field at a university that Gajjar considers world class for textiles research!
NC State is the only school in United States that offers a degree in Biotextiles, as well as ". . . amazing faculty and labs for Medical Textiles." Gajjar considers himself lucky to have worked with Dr. Marian McCord for his M.S. research. As Director of Global Health Initiative at NC State, Dr. McCord has various medical textile projects aimed at improving public health, especially in developing countries. As a doctoral student, Gajjar is currently working with Dr. Martin King, who has worked in the field of medical textiles for more than 30 years. Dr. King also directs the Biomedical Textile Laboratory ". . . where the textiles are engineered for life!"
While at the annual meeting, Popular Mechanics caught up with him to discuss his research. Here is the story:
If a soldier takes a shot to the arm, his comrades can tighten a tourniquet above the wound to prevent major blood loss. Not so if the wound occurs on his torso. The blood loss could be so severe that even if the soldier gets to a hospital quickly, it could be too late to save his life.
"These are potentially preventable deaths," says Chirag Gajjar, a doctoral student at North Carolina State University. "If we have the right materials to slow down or stop the flow of blood, we could have more time to treat the person."
PM met Gajjar at [Oct. 23 – Oct. 27] Biomedical Engineering Society annual meeting in Atlanta, where he explained that there are materials available that can be used to make bandages that slow down blood flow from the torso, but they're expensive and hard to come by. Gajjar, along with adviser Marian McCord, is working to find a textile that is hemostatic (blood-stopping) and also readily available.
Glass fiber is an excellent material for slowing down blood flow, but it can't be used to dress wounds because glass particles can get into the body and cause damage. So Gajjar's team tried to replicate the properties of glass fibers in materials that people can wear every day. They found that a chemical called tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS) has properties similar to those of the surface of glass, but with none of the damaging side effects.
In an experiment the team coated a variety of fabrics—such as cotton, polyester, and nylon—with TEOS and mixed the fabric samples together with human blood plasma. They measured the time it took for each sample to begin forming thrombin, a blood-clotting agent.
The treated fabrics reduced the time it took for the plasma to begin clotting by 25 to 30 percent, and the treated cotton worked the best. "It was not as close to glass as we would like, but the time to clotting can be significantly reduced by using chemical treatments," Gajjar says. And that means the treated fabrics could potentially close up wounds faster and save more lives than traditional bandages.
By experimenting with different chemicals and different treatments, the team hopes to eventually create a bandage that can stop blood flow twice as fast as a regular bandage.
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