With new drug, scientists fortify injured soldiers to keep them alive until medical treatment arrives

Scientists have developed a new drug that prevents biological "shut down" mechanisms in the injured, keeping victims alive until they can receive medical treatment.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Scientists have developed a new drug that prevents "shut down" biological mechanisms in the injured, turning almost any victim into a "super survivor."

If successful, the drug could vastly improve survival from horrific injuries by allowing victims to live long enough to make it to a hospital, according to the New Scientist.

So far, the drug has only been tested in animals.

The drug has potential application for injured soldiers at war. On the battlefield, loss of blood is a problem and difficult to treat because transporting enough additional blood or saline needed for a transfusion is not always possible when in harm's way.

According to the article, 90 percent of battlefield deaths occur before soldiers reach a medical facility. Half of them are due to blood loss.

When the body incurs heavy blood loss, it compensates by going into a state of shock, raising blood pressure, increasing heart rate and saving energy.

But a persisting state of shock could lead to organ failure and death. The new drug aims to stop parts of this process.

The science: About 6 to 7 percent of genes change their expression in response to shock, where the body removes chemical additions to the genome called acetylations.

Since histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors can prevent the removal of these acetylations, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital surgeon Hasan Alam investigated their use to prevent blood loss.

The team's previous research showed that an HDAC inhibitor used to treat epilepsy could increase survival rates in rats that had lost a lot of blood.

Using pigs, the team found that 86 percent of those injected with valproic acid, an HDAC inhibitor, survived after four hours. Just 25 percent of pigs receiving only saline survived for the same time period.

Better yet, all pigs who had a blood transfusion lived. (Why four hours, by the way? That's the typical time it takes to get treatment by a hospital.)

The team is testing the process to ensure that valproic acid doesn't hurt long-term survival. If successful, the next step is human trials.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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