Air Date: Week of November 1, 2002
Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports that researchers have used potatoes to develop a substance that stems the blood flow at least as well as standard treatments.
CURWOOD: Coming up, the amazing power of lights that require almost no power to make them shine. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jessica Penney.
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PENNEY: Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota have developed a powder made from potatoes that can instantly clot blood and stop wounds from bleeding. To make the powder, scientists send the spuds through a multi-step chemical and physical process, resulting in very fine particles of potato starch. These tiny spheres act like a sponge to soak up water and small molecules of blood plasma at the surface of a wound.
Meanwhile, blood platelets and potato starch form a thick gel. As the gel slows bleeding, the natural clotting process begins.
Because the potato starch is so fine, the body breaks it down quickly, leaving a completely normal scab after about one day, with no traces of potato--an improvement over some typical blood stoppers that can remain in the body for weeks and can cause infections or allergic reactions.
The potato powder also is less likely to transmit disease than current blood clotting agents made from animal or human tissue. The powder could be used to reduce the need for blood transfusions during surgery, and it can also be effective in emergency or military trauma situations. In tests with lab mice, the powder even stopped bleeding at incisions that are usually fatal. The researchers say they are negotiating with the manufacturer to make bandages with the powder for every day use. That’s this week’s health note. I’m Jessica Penney.
CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.
[MUSIC: Peter Thomas “The Spell of the Sinister One” FUTUREMUZIK (Caroline, 1998)]
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