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Soil triggers clotting to control bleeding in a wound

A new study from the University of British Columbia is the first of its kind to demonstrate that soil can trigger clotting to control bleeding in a wound. The study revealed that soil silicates, which make up the majority of the Earth’s crust, initiate the blood clotting process.

The researchers found that the presence of soil in a wound activates the blood protein coagulation Factor XII. Once this protein is activated, it launches a series of events that plug and seal the wound to limit blood loss.

Study senior author Professor Christian Kastrup is a scientist in UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories and Centre for Blood Research.

“Soil is not simply our matrix for growing food and for building materials. Here we discovered that soil can actually help control bleeding after injury by triggering clotting,” said Professor Kastrup.

The research team emphasized that there is a high risk of infection from unsterilized dirt, but that the findings have implications for the development of new strategies to help manage bleeding with sterilized dirt.

“Excessive bleeding is responsible for up to 40 percent of mortality in trauma patients,” said Professor Kastrup. “In extreme cases and in remote areas without access to healthcare and wound sealing products, like sponges and sealants, sterilized soil could potentially be used to stem deadly bleeding following injuries.”

The researchers also discovered that the mechanism used by soil silicates to activate Factor XII and promote faster clotting is unique to terrestrial mammals.

“This finding demonstrates how terrestrial mammals, ranging from mice to humans, evolved to naturally use silicates as a specific signal to Factor XII to trigger blood clotting,” said study first author Lih Jiin Juang. “These results will have a profound impact on the way we view our relationship with our environment.”

Next, the experts will investigate whether the response of blood to silicates helps prevent infection from microbes that are present in the soil. The team also wants to test silicates from the moon’s surface to see if they  activate Factor XII.

“If moon silicates activate Factor XII, this discovery could prove useful in preventing death among people visiting or colonizing the moon, and it would provide further insight to identifying materials that may halt bleeding in very remote environments with limited resources and medical supplies,” said Professor Kastrup.

The study is published in the journal Blood Advances

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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