Frederick County Biotech Community

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Army Stops the bleeding on the battlefield, California stops the bleeding at Life Tech-Frederick

Posted by Jim H on December 12, 2008

I found a few divergent stories this morning I thought you may find interesting.

After my rant in the paper yesterday, I see now that the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine is taking more of the approach that I hope we can adapt in Maryland.  From an article in the San Diego Xconomy:

As institute president Alan Trounson said in a prepared statement Wednesday, “These awards represent the entry of the biotechnology industry into CIRM-funded initiatives to accelerate progress.”

The grants approved and the San Diego biotechs receiving them were:

—$827,072 for Novocell to advance development of “an implantable device” to capture and retain pancreatic stem cells. Novocell researchers have already implanted the device, a semi-permeable pouch, into animals and collected pancreas stem cells, which develop into mature cells that produce insulin.

—$749,520 for a joint effort by Fluidigm of South San Francisco and StemGent, a Cambridge, MA, biotech with operations in San Diego, to develop a screening technology to help stem cell researchers “reverse engineer” skin cells into stem cells. The technique would enable researchers to work with stem cells in a way that avoids ethical objections and technical barriers to using embryonic stem cells.

—$869,262 for an application by Invitrogen, now known as Life Technologies, for developing methods of modelling human neurodegenerative diseases in human embryonic stem cells. Researchers plan to focus their work on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

—$906,629 for Vala Sciences to develop new and improved techniques for developing mature heart cells called cardiomyocyte cells from human embryonic stem cells.

In a related move, the institute’s 29-member governing body agreed to accelerate funding for commercial entities to provide “greater financial stability” for California’s biotechnology sector, which “faces significant challenges arising from the credit crisis and economic downturn.”

Thank you California!! So this is really good news for Invitrogen-New, New LifeTech-Frederick, especially after the sad news yesterday about layoffs (I heard that the Stem Cell groups were not impacted. If you have more dirt, let me know).  Since a lot of the Stem Cell Research at LifeTEch is happening in Frederick, I think we’ll see some “trickle down”.

Speaking of trickle down, or stopping it, there was another article in the Army.Mil/News site about the WoundStat product I blogged about previously.  This one is more of a review of effectiveness after being deployed in the field.  It looks like this revolutionary product is going to save a lot of our soldiers who are putting their necks on the line everyday for us.

Army fields new equipment to stop bleeding

Combat Gauze and WoundStat granules give Army medics a better chance of saving bleeding casualties. Photo by MRMC

Test results show Combat Gauze field bandages and WoundStat granules both demonstrated marked improvements over what’s currently used to control bleeding in the field, said Col. Paul Cordts of the Army Surgeon General’s office.

“These products improve survival, result in less blood loss and improved post-injury blood pressures,” he said about findings from the tests conducted by Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Institute of Surgical Research.

Excessive blood loss is the number one killer on the battleground, said Cordts, a surgeon. Both products can stop bleeding quickly in wounds where tourniquets can’t be used, he said.

About 270,000 12-foot strips of Combat Gauze are expected to be in theater by the end of the year, said Lt. Col. Sean Morgan from Program Executive Office-Soldier, the agency fielding most of the bandages. More than 17,000 packages of WoundStat also will be working their way to the field, he said.

Combat Gauze uses kaolin, a fine, white clay, to stop bleeding, Cordts said, and WoundStat granules react with blood to form a barrier, preventing more bleeding.

More than 92 percent of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan survive their injuries in combat — the highest percentage of any war. Master Sgt. Horace Tyson, a combat medic, said he attributes the high number of people being saved to the advanced tools the Army provides medics, such as dressings that stop or slow blood flow from wounds.

Having recently returned from a 15-month assignment in Iraq as the senior enlisted manager in a battalion aid station in the heart of Baghdad, Tyson said, he saw first-hand the benefits of dressings with blood-clotting capabilities.

“I categorize these products as lifesavers for us,” said Tyson, who now works as a senior operations manager for Medical Research and Materiel Command.

A service member can bleed to death within minutes of being hurt, Tyson said.

“The bandages make the difference between a [Soldier] having no chance of living because he’ll bleed out in five minutes versus me getting him to an aid station within 20 minutes and him staying alive,” Tyson said. “Without the bandages, he could be dead.”

With 19 years of experience and four deployments in conflict areas under his belt, Tyson said, he’s seen the Army’s scientific research drastically improve medics’ tools and training.

“If we’re going to get something else better for the battlefield, that’s great,” he said.

The new dressings are expected not only to save more lives, but also to bring significant cost savings to the government, Cordts said. Combat Gauze is less than $30 per dressing, compared to the currently used HemCon bandage, which
uses chitosan from shrimp shells to stop blood and costs $88 per bandage. WoundStat also is less expensive than the QuikClot granules it replaces.

The Army plans to equip combat lifesavers to carry three gauzes, and eventually all Soldiers will have one in their Improved First Aid Kits. Combat medics, who are highly trained in emergency trauma, will be given three gauzes, but will be the only ones to carry WoundStat, since it requires more medical expertise to use, Cordts

Although the new hemostatic dressings are promising great improvements, Dr. David Baer, ISR’s director of surgical research, said it doesn’t mean the Army isn’t still looking for the next line of products that could offer even more improvements.

ISR scientists looked into about two dozen other products in the last few years before they discovered Combat Gauze and WoundStat, and they will continue their efforts for even more cutting-edge products to save lives, he said.

“The way I think about it is the HemCon was better than the plain gauze, [Combat Gauze] is better than the HemCon, and it can get incrementally better,” Baer said.

And last, but not least, is some news breaking from U Md College Park. I think the news is big enough that we can include them in our little blog this time. All the way from WebIndia web site (I didn’t look very hard to find a closer source):

Gene mutation that appears to prevent heart disease identified
Washington | December 12, 2008 11:45:34 AM IST

A team of scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore has identified a novel gene mutation among the Old Order Amish population that significantly reduces the level of triglycerides in the blood and appears to help prevent heart disease.

“We found that about 5 percent of the Amish have a gene mutation that speeds up the breakdown of triglycerides, which are fat particles in the blood associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease,” said the lead author, Toni I. Pollin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Carriers of the mutation have half the amount of apoC-III, a protein linked to triglycerides, than people without the gene variant.

Pollin said that those with this mutation of the APOC3 gene have higher levels of HDL-cholesterol, the so-called “good” cholesterol, and lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.

Let’s hope this discovery will save more lives than the battlefield bandages in the days to come.

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