Bye-Bye Blood Clots

Surface-coating technology prevents blood from clotting in medical devices.

By Katie Bo WilliamsOct 29, 2015 5:00 AM
A microscopic view of blood cells forming a clot, which can clog implanted medical devices and harm patients. | Wyss Institute at Harvard University


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Blood thinners are necessary for many life-saving procedures. Yet for trauma victims with multiple injuries — like car accident victims or wounded soldiers — using anti-coagulants can accelerate potentially fatal blood loss.

A solution to this problem was inspired by technology engineered to prevent ice from adhering to airplane wings. Researchers from Harvard’s Wyss Institute treated medical devices, such as catheters, with a special coating that repels the components of blood that would otherwise form clots on the devices and cut off needed blood flow.

Harvard researchers used a special coating, called Tethered-Liquid Perfluorocarbon (TLP), to prevent clots and eliminate the need for risky blood thinners. The top image shows an uncoated surface; below it is a surface coated with TLP. | Wyss Institute at Harvard University

The coating is made of two layers of a synthetic chemical, similar to Teflon, called perfluorocarbon. The substance creates a slippery surface for the sticky parts of blood — fibrin and platelets — to slide past.

The team tested the technology in pigs by inserting catheters and other medical devices coated with the perfluorocarbon. They even challenged a gecko to climb up a coated surface. Geckos derive their incredible climbing ability by using a lot of small, weak chemical bonds — the same chemical bonds that are the first step in blood clotting.

“The look on the gecko’s face when he slides down is so humiliated,” senior author Dan Ingber said.

Perfluorocarbon is already used as an FDA-approved blood substitute and can be used in any procedure involving extracorporeal devices, such as dialysis machines. Plus, the perfluorocarbon coatings can be sterilized for medical use. Researchers are in talks with device-makers now.

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