When you get a cut, you reach for a Band-Aid. When you get a more severe gash, you might find some gauze and medical tape in the cabinet. If it’s bad enough, you head to the hospital for stitches or even call an ambulance. Around the house or on the job, it’s unlikely that you’ll undergo such a devastating injury for which these responses would be insufficient. But accidents do happen, and in other scenarios – car accidents, battle wounds, construction mishaps, extreme sports falls – the ability to stop the bleeding immediately can be the difference between life and death.
Unfortunately, current adhesive and bandage technology is ineffective against arterial bleeds and other forms of major blood loss. If you can’t access a hospital or a medic, your future may be grim. But a new, polymer-based gel has the potential to not only be a better way to stop the bleeding – it could even hasten the healing process. And to think, it was the brainchild of Joe Landolina, a 17-year-old student.
“The ability to stop bleeding can be the difference between life and death.”
Algae-based polymer gel helps wounds heal faster
The idea of using a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding has become a metaphor: Anytime a temporary solution arises in some social construct, someone invariably calls it “just a Band-Aid.” This isn’t to downplay the role of the ubiquitous adhesive bandage. Certainly it has an undisputed position in the medical world. But for deeper, more severe wounds, these and other applications won’t cut it.
Enter VetiGel, a syringe-applied, plant-based polymer gel that aids clotting and stops bleeding within seconds, according to Yahoo. But it doesn’t end there – the polymers recognize the cells around them and reassemble into a mesh upon which the body will build a clot. That means the gel essentially provides the structure necessary for the wound to heal properly, using whatever cells are inherent to that part of the body.
“What that means, on the one hand, is that the gel will make a very strong adhesive that holds the wound together,” Landolina told Yahoo. “But on the other hand, that mesh acts as a scaffold to help the body produce fibrin at the wound’s surface.”
That’s all fairly high-level, so let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’ve punctured your abdomen and you have internal bleeding from the liver. The goal of VetiGel is to stop the bleeding quickly, and also allow the body to heal in a natural way. Because liver cells are different than skin cells or those of other organs, the body must produce a blood clot made up specifically of liver cells. The ingenuity of VetiGel is that those polymers will take on the identity of the liver cells around them, creating the right conditions for the wound to heal normally.
What exactly do we mean by “mesh”? The body’s cells don’t exist in isolation, or even as part of some great cellular soup. As teenage inventor Joe Landolina explains in the video, the cells sit in an extracellular matrix, a mesh of fibers, proteins and sugars. This architecture provides tissue structure, stability for the cells and the context necessary for cells to know where they are and how to behave.
Testing necessary to bring VetiGel to the consumer
We’ve discussed the uses VetiGel could have for humans, but that might be jumping the gun. The product must still undergo FDA approval before it is considered safe for human use. That includes testing from a third-party analytical laboratory, examining molecular weight over time, leachables and extractables analysis, in vitro aging studies and much more. It’s a lot, but it’s the same process every new medical product must undergo.
But that doesn’t mean there are no current applications for VetiGel. As it stands, the product is available for use in animals at veterinarian clinics. While animal health products still abide by the same guidelines as their human counterparts, the FDA does not need to provide explicit approval for these items. That means pets will be the first patients to receive treatment. If all goes well, human patients could be close behind.
Though the product has yet to receive FDA approval, Landolina and his team have yet to observe any negative side effects. The polymers are designed to be resorable, so the body can break it down and assimilate the material once it’s no longer necessary.
“Polymers’ broad range of applications holds answers to many questions.”
Young inventor, wise idea
Some say creativity leaves us as we age. Maybe we grow out of it. Maybe we’re educated the wrong way, or maybe we don’t get the proper opportunities to exercise the right sides of our brains. Whatever the case may be, Joe Landolina wasted no time in his young life to make an impact, utilize his ingenuity and develop a product that has a real shot at changing the world.
The first version of VetiGel came in Landolina’s grandfather’s lab in 2010. Landolina was a 17-year-old high school student at the time. As a freshman at New York University, he and a Junior classmate entered the product in a business competition full of graduate students, professors and other brilliant minds. The pair came in second and used that as a springboard for their business. With project partner Isaac Miller as his cofounder and CFO, Landolina now offers VetiGel as a 5-pack of preloaded syringes for $150.
What Landolina has done with his product is more than provide a high-potential medical product with a vast array of possible applications. He has also opened the door for young scientists, inventors, business people and entrepreneurs to follow his lead. While Landolina is clearly a bright individual, it doesn’t take a genius to bring value to the world – just some creativity, innovation, drive and ambition. When an idea comes, young people shouldn’t ignore it – there’s a chance it could grow into something incredibly meaningful, as VetiGel has the potential to do.
It’s impossible to say what will come next, but polymer-based inventions like these are growing more and more common. Clearly, polymers’ variety of applications holds answers to many questions. The trick is to ask the right ones and be ready for anything.