Mammal research on blood loss therapy leads to life-saving medical treatment for people

Adapted from a story by Kevin Coss, University of Minnesota-Duluth

Associate Dean Matt Andrews‘ research on blood loss therapy that began back in 2005 while at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) is helping to expand the window for life-saving medical treatment by giving patients more time to reach the emergency room.

Matt Andrews, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and Administration

The treatment, called BHB/M, is designed to be delivered by IV into the veins of someone suffering from hemorrhagic shock — when the body loses a severe and potentially fatal amount of blood — to help stop their organs from shutting down. Each year, between 300,000 and 400,000 people in the United States suffer from hemorrhagic shock. Greg Beilman, M.D., professor of surgery with the University of Minnesota Medical School and one of the BHB/M researchers, estimates that 45,000 to 60,000 of those people die from their severe blood loss.

Now, through a unique collaboration between the researchers,University of Minnesota staff and industry consultants, the technology is moving closer to the market. Last month, the project received $2.5 million in funding from the university’s Center for Translational Medicine to conduct the necessary preclinical work to file for clinical trial approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

“This collaboration between units has helped us put the pieces together to figure out if the therapy has legs,” Beilman said. “It’s been exciting to watch this process move the technology closer to fruition.”

13-lined-squirrel

The drug’s creation traces back to 2005. Matt Andrews, McKnight Presidential Professor of Biology at the UMD and an expert on hibernation in mammals, had noticed that thirteen-lined ground squirrels (also known as striped gophers) produced higher levels of a natural compound called D-Beta Hydroxybutyrate (or BHB) while hibernating and also showed spikes in melatonin during brief mid-hibernation awakenings. These two compounds, he realized, play a crucial role in allowing the squirrel’s blood flow and metabolism to naturally lower during hibernation without harming its organs.

Andrews ran tests and found injections of BHB and melatonin prolonged animals’ survival after severe blood loss by nearly four times. He soon approached Beilman with this news, and together with Lester Drewes, Ph.D., professor of biomedical sciences at UMD, they set out to develop a drug therapy that could have a similar live-saving effect in humans.

Read more about this new medical treatment.

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