SEEDS Fellowship Supports Sikorski's Work on Blood Clotting Gel

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Michael Sikorski, recipient of a SEEDS Fellowship for his work on blood clotting gels.

Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BioE) sophomore Michael Sikorski has received a 2012-2013 Successful Engineering Education and Development Support (SEEDS) Research Fellowship. The National Science Foundation-funded award supports Sikorski's research on blood clotting hydrogels, which he conducts in the Functional Macromolecular Laboratory under the guidance of BioE professor Peter Kofinas.

Each year, the SEEDS program funds 20 undergraduates to work on a research project under the guidance of a faculty member or mentor for one academic year. In addition to laboratory experience, SEEDS Fellows also learn to write and submit papers for publication, and have the opportunity to attend professional conferences and symposiums. At the end of the academic year, they present the results of their work at the University of Maryland Undergraduate Research Day.

Traumatic injury—whether the result of an accident, crime, or combat—is the leading cause of death of children and adults up to age 44*. Many people who are fatally injured die as the result of hemorrhaging that cannot be stopped or controlled before medical care can be obtained. Surgery also carries the risk of inducing potentially fatal bleeding.

Throughout the past decade, a number of hemostatic (blood clotting) products have been introduced that are designed to halt bleeding quickly and without the need for sutures, buying time for severely injured patients in emergency situations. These include biologically active gels for surgical use and biological or synthetic powders and foams that can be applied by first responders and military personnel. Unfortunately, high cost, lack of availability, and ineffectiveness have prevented their widespread use.

The Kofinas Group has been developing biocompatible hemostatic polymer hydrogels for traumatic and surgical settings that are inexpensive, effective, and easy to distribute, use and store.

When someone suffers an open wound, the body creates a quick clot out of fragments of blood cells called platelets. Nearby blood vessels constrict, and a cascade of enzyme-catalyzed reactions form fibrin, a tougher, more permanent plug that eventually becomes a scab. As the wound heals, the clot is broken down. The material Sikorski works with is designed to give that natural process a boost.

"Our research focuses on the synthesis, characterization, and assessment of topically applied hydrogel microparticles that will augment hemostasis by promoting the formation of a robust plug and forming a physical barrier to blood loss," he explains.

One day, he may find himself using the product he helped create.

"I volunteer as an EMT here in College Park at the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company," he says. "It is exciting to work on this research because I am reminded every week of how it directly applies to emergency medicine and how it can someday help save the lives of trauma victims."

*"Injury: The Leading Cause of Death Among Persons 1–44." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 19 December 2012.

For More Information:

Visit Professor Kofinas' web site »

Published December 19, 2012