So first of all, no … no one is saying that you should just grab dirt off the ground, and rub it into your wounds. That said, a new study does suggest that sanitized soil could be used to halt bleeding, when other means aren’t available.
Via lab mouse trials, scientists at Canada’s University of British Columbia recently discovered that the naturally-occurring silicates in soil activate a blood protein found in all terrestrial (land-based) mammals. Once triggered, that protein – known as coagulation Factor XII – starts a chain reaction that causes blood to clot, forming a wound-sealing plug that prevents further blood loss.
Of course, plain ol’ dirt contains many microorganisms that may cause infections if applied to an open wound. Sanitized soil, on the other hand, could be easily procured and stored onsite in remote locations or developing nations, where traditional wound-sealing products such as sponges and sealants are scarce.
In fact, the researchers are even planning on testing silicates obtained from regolith on the surface of the Moon, to see if they also trigger Factor XII. If so, the “moon soil” could conceivably be used for wound treatment in the medical bays of future lunar colonies.
A paper on the research, which is being led by Assoc. Prof. Christian Kastrup, was recently published in the journal Blood Advances.
“This finding demonstrates how terrestrial mammals, ranging from mice to humans, evolved to naturally use silicates as a specific signal to Factor XII to trigger blood clotting,” says PhD student Lih Jiin Juang, first author of the paper. “These results will have a profound impact on the way we view our relationship with our environment.”
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