Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada have developed a potential new treatment to stop severe bleeding after trauma. It comes in powder form, and is made of particles that propel themselves against blood flow, delivering coagulants to difficult-to-reach places inside the body. The new development may be a big step forward in preventing blood loss from traumatic injuries.

“People have developed hundreds of agents that can clot blood but the issue is that it’s hard to push these therapies against severe blood flow, especially far enough upstream to reach the leaking vessels,” said Christian Kastrup, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia, in a press release. “Here, for the first time, we’ve come up with an agent that can do that.”

For the study, researchers — a group that included biochemical engineers and emergency room physicians — developed gas-generating calcium carbonate microparticles in powder form. The particles release carbon dioxide after being applied to a wound, or even when inserted in the body to treat internal bleeding in areas like the uterus, sinuses, and abdomen. The carbon dioxide then pushes the powder forward against the flow of blood to the source of the bleeding. Inside the powder, the carbonate makes microparticles that bind with tranexamic acid, a clotting agent that can stop bleeding. and settles deep into wounded tissue.

The researchers first tested the process in the lab, then in two animal models, and found the powder was effective at stopping bleeding in various parts of the body. The powder was primarily aimed at treating bleeding in the uterus, particularly after a woman gives birth, an area that is difficult to reach with other coagulants.

“The area we’re really focusing on is postpartum hemorrhage; in the uterus, after childbirth, where you can’t see the damaged vessels but you can put the powder into that area and the particles can propel and find those damaged vessels,” Kastrup said.

Not only have scientists developed a powder to stop bleeding, but another group of researchers have also come up with a sprayable foam that can heal wounds quickly. In that study, researchers sprayed the foam over wounds in pigs, and watched it double in size before it turned into a solid that prevented more blood from coming out.

Kastrup’s team, however, was able to develop a powder that not only helps external injuries but also travels to hard-to-reach places in the body. The researchers will need to gather a lot more research before they can test it out in human subjects, however. Until then, they’re hoping the powder could be of potential use during sinus operations or in treating combat injuries.

Watch the video for more information on their work.