idf - Alberto Denkberg - March 25 2009
Wounded IDF soldier, March 25, 2009. Photo by Alberto Denkberg
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The Israel Defense Forces is working on using electric currents to stop bleeding during field triage.

The method, which uses electrodes shooting hundreds of volts to spur clotting, was developed by Daniel Palanker, an associate professor at Stanford University. The IDF's Medical Corps and research administration is conducting joint testing of the method together with Prof. Ofer Barnea of Tel Aviv University.

The method was presented at a recent conference in Israel that brought together Israeli Medical Corps researchers with 60 scientists from the U.S. Army.

"For years we have been looking for a technology to stop internal bleeding. There are injuries where bleeding is difficult to stop with a tourniquet, such as high amputation of an arm or massive bleeding in the groin. Our goal is to stimulate the clotting of the blood in that area," said Lt. Col. Yossi Mandel, head of the IDF's Research and Foreign Affairs Directorate.

Various powders and bandages exist to encourage clotting under field conditions, but their efficacy is limited, and the Medical Corps is looking for additional technologies that would also allow surgery in the battlefield and would stop internal bleeding.

The experiments now underway have developed an electrode that delivers dozens or hundreds of volts of electricity for one micro-second or less, which has been shown to constrict blood vessels.

In preliminary tests researchers were able to constrict blood vessels in chicken eggs by delivering an electric shock. The constriction led to a clot within a few minutes allowing them to cut into the vessel without causing bleeding.

According to Mendel, "we do not know for sure what causes the vessels to constrict as a result of the electric shock. It might me a response of the smooth muscles that surround blood vessels."

The method will be ready for testing on humans in a few years, the IDF Medical Corps believes.

The Medical Corps also presented at the conference its work on an improved version of the traditional tourniquet. Over the past few months, the army has been studying the development and manufacture of an automatic tourniquet.

The Medical Corps is also studing a head injury medication called D-Cycloserine, which is currently approved for use to improve cognition and to treat tuberculosis. Researchers believe it can also help people with head injuries carry out tasks after their recovery.

Another development presented at the conference was to improve soldiers' vision by means of training the brain, according to a system developed by Dr. Uri Polat of Tel Aviv University.

The research is currently being carried out on soldiers whose task is to decipher aerial photographs and who require top-notch vision.

Researchers are considering expanding the study to sharpshooters. "At this point we're tying to find a link between visual functions and the ability to decipher aerial photographs, and at the next stage we will be studying visual abilities by training on a computer," Mandel said.