We’ve been hearing about nanoparticles for a while now. They’ve actually had a long history dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. But for the average layman, nanoparticles have had a little bit of exposure only through film and television, but not many people know exactly what they are. So, what exactly are nanoparticles? In the most basic terms, nanoparticles are particles that are between 1 nanometer to 100 nanometers in size. Each nanoparticle behaves as part of a whole, especially when it comes to its transport and different properties. It is currently one of the most studied branches of science, and in terms of medicine, nanoparticles have had promising potential in research, especially when it comes to its life-saving properties.
Each year, tens of thousands of people in the United States die from internal bleeding. A gastrointestinal bleed alone is roughly the cause of over 20,000 deaths annually. These numbers come down to about 1 out of 13 diagnoses of internal bleeding leading to death, and when aspirin or NSAIDS—non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—are concerned, the numbers get worse. 1 out of 5 diagnoses of internal bleeding result to death.
As it turns out, internal bleeding is a condition that’s quite difficult to treat. There have been many past research on ways to diminish the fatality of internal bleeding, but one recent one that uses nanoparticles has had great promise. ITMO University scientists from Russia have been looking at ways magnetically driven nanoparticles that contain thrombin can stop internal bleeding effectively. The research was published last year in the journal Scientific Reports.
The research explains that a drug containing such nanoparticles can be injected directly to the injury site via intravenous fashion. In a research simulation of a blood vessel, clot formation increased by 6.5 times when the nanoparticle drug was used. This in turn reduced blood loss tremendously by a remarkable 15% rate, a result that can have major implications in practical use.
The pertinent factor seems to be in the addition of the thrombin component. Thrombin is an enzyme that triggers blood clot formation, and its one of the main components that prevent bleeding in surgery. It also acts to catalyze other coagulation-related reactions. The nanoparticles used in this research contains a core of thrombin, which is then wrapped in a porous matrix of magnetite. This is how these nanoparticles can be driven magnetically using an external magnetic field. In the practical sense, doctors and surgeons will be able to move these particles using a magnet, literally, towards a specific site of injury, thus preventing or ceasing internal bleeding efficiently. Being biocompatible, the nanoparticle drugs can be allowed to stay within the body for a long period of time. The research does not specify how these nanoparticles may be removed, if at all. If there needs to be more research before it can be applied to use, only the medical and research fields will know.
However, the research makes sense and the practical applications of nanoparticles could save thousands of lives each year. How come it isn’t being used already in hospitals everywhere? It turns out that these nanoparticles are quite difficult to create. According to laboratory head Vladimir Vinogradov, the size of the nanoparticles have to be 200 nanometers, and synthesizing particles that small is not an easy feat. The nanoparticles need to be that small so they can be suitable for injection and ultimately travel through veins. The synthesis conditions to create these nanoparticles also need to be suitable to the maintenance of the thrombin component in order for the thrombin not to break down and lose activity. Otherwise, the nanoparticles would lose the component that act as the main coagulator. It’s not clear when this treatment will be available to patients. It seems like it may be a while before the possibility of this drug can be used in hospitals. It’s likelihood that the synthesis process will need to be improved and streamlined in order to make it an actual viable and affordable process for practical application. Whether more research is warranted on long-term effects of injected nanoparticles will be determined in time. For now, the fact that this is even possible is a great feat for science as is, and the future only looks brighter for everyone.