BOSTON (CBS) – It looks like a simple caulking gun. But it’s no ordinary tool.
“The potential impact is truly revolutionary,” says Dr. David King.
Dr. King is a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has seen the horror of battle up close from the Boston Marathon bombings to war zones as an Army medic.
“Guys who have to be pronounced dead because they have an injury that could be fixed but they died before you could even get your hands on them… extremely frustrating,” says Dr. King.
To give these wounded warriors a fighting chance, Dr. King has teamed up with Arsenal Medical to develop a so-called trauma foam.
“It’s really about taking someone who is going to die and giving them a couple of hours to get to a surgeon, where once you get to a surgeon, you have a pretty good chance of survival,” says Dr. Upma Sharma, the director of material science at Arsenal Medical.
Once a soldier is hit with enemy fire or a road-side bomb, it’s crucial to stop internal bleeding. That’s where this foam comes in.
This is, “an intervention that can be done on the ground, in the mud, on the battlefield,” says Dr. King.
Once injected into the body, the foam quickly expands to fill the abdominal cavity. This applies life-saving pressure and can stabilize the patient. Once the patient reaches an operating room, the foam can be easily peeled away.
In a demonstration, the Arsenal Medical filled the bottom of a container with the liquid and within 90 seconds, it expanded and hardened to fill the space. In a second demonstration, the foam forced a balloon to fully inflate.
While the foam was designed for combat, it could save lives here at home.
“We’re learning that there is a really large civilian need as well,” says Dr. Sharma says.
Examples would include, car crashes, a gunshot wound, or even a bad fall.
Until now, the foam has been a virtual success in Sci-Fi video games. Fans of the video game “Halo” know it as Bio-foam.
Thanks to a $25 million grant from the Department of Defense, Arsenal Medical’s real-life foam could win FDA approval later this year.
“I will take having a surviving casualty any day as a big win for us,” says Dr. King.
And he hopes to see that big win on his next deployment.