Life-saving technologies
To say that war has evolved is an understatement. The mobilization of large-scale armies in two-sided conflicts is no longer an appropriate definition of modern warfare. For example, consider the various ongoing wars in the Middle East; in many regions, ISIS is fighting against a combination of tribal groups, government forces and civilian militias.

The changing landscape of war, along with changes in war technology, leaves one thing clear: war is no longer country versus country, but rather a scramble for power in volatile regions. However, it is not just the technologies designed to kill that have evolved; life-saving technologies have also made incredible leaps in development.

Evolution of Warfare

As the parameters of war continue to change, so must foreign aid intended to help people caught in armed conflict. Most U.S. foreign aid falls under the “150 account,” a function of the federal budget that contains funding for all international activities. Though function 150 comprises just one percent of the federal budget, it’s responsible for providing all military assistance to allies and aiding in international peacekeeping efforts.

On-going conflicts like those in Syria, Afghanistan and Iran place a heavy strain on U.S. assistance, as the government struggles to provide cost-effective and efficient methods of assistance.

In 2014, president Obama asked Congress to fund a program in which American military personnel would teach Syrian and Jordanian rebels navigation, marksmanship and other skills, in the hopes that they would return to Syria and fight. They recruited about 15,000 men to train in Jordanian territory. One year later, U.S. defense officials admitted that just four or five recruits from the program actually returned to fight.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Syria continues to worsen. Recent estimates place the death toll in Syria at over 200,000 which includes adult civilians and children. About 28,000 deaths can be attributed to shootings and mass killings; often random events that happen with no prior warning.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. panel investigating human rights abuses in Syria, explains how “everyday decisions- whether to visit a neighbor, to go out and buy bread- have become, potentially, decisions about life and death.”

Maybe it’s time to rethink how the government can best support civilians and the Syrian National Coalition. Train and equip programs like that of 2014 seem to be a process of trial and error, as it takes time to access their efficacy and long-term sustainability.

Life-saving Technologies

Still, there are small steps the Department of Defense can take to save Syrian lives without sending in weapons or personnel. Two life-saving technologies, the combat tourniquet and quick-clot, could drastically reduce the number of deaths associated with shootings and mass killings as well as organized fighting between the National Coalition and Assad’s forces.

The combat application tourniquet (CAT) is a 21st take on the conventional tourniquet and one of the most important life-saving technologies. Generally speaking, tourniquet use in combat declined after World War II, when widespread misuse led to excessive blood loss and amputation. In most cases, tourniquets were either too tight or too loose, rendering them useless and inefficient.

In the following decades, field medics and soldiers barely used tourniquets in the Vietnam and Korean wars. Unlike its traditional predecessor, the CAT is incredibly easy to use and much more effective. A recent study by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) found a 78% success rate when compared to alternative methods for stopping a bleeding.

The CAT’s Out of the Bag

Designed to be used with one hand, the CAT features an adhesive band and friction-adapting buckle to fit anything from an arm to thigh. It also has a free-moving internal band that provides the circumferential pressure necessary for stopping blood flow.

The major difference between the CAT and the traditional tourniquet is that a traditional tourniquet needs to be tied. The CAT’s design makes it possible for a wounded individual to use the device on him or herself, without having to wait for a medic (although it’s still possible for one person to use the CAT on another).

The same study by the IDF claims that the CAT is easy to use and is relatively painless compared to other methods. Its one-handed and foolproof design makes it an ideal technology for war-torn regions where the majority of casualties are related to bullet wounds and blood loss. The U.S. military-issued CAT is priced at about $30.

Clots Begone

Combat Gauze, colloquially termed “QuikClot” is another one of the life-saving technologies at a lower cost (about $8-$40 per packet, depending on the retailer). QuikClot is a hemostatic agent, which means it stops blood loss by helping the blood rapidly clot. Kaolin, the primary clotting agent, works on contact with blood by initiating factor XII, which then transforms into Factor XIIa. XIIa is the molecular cascade responsible for clotting.

The physical gauze conforms to the wound and immediately triggers this process. The 2013 Journal of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists features a study that found QuikClot effectively stopped hemorrhaging — without complications — 79% of the times it was used by the Israeli Defense forces in Gaza.

The journal also features data to show that QuikClot allowed more effective fluid resuscitation (blood transfusions) and better helped the clot withstand movement compared to other methods.

Packaged in small pouches, QuikClot can be distributed in mass quantities and used without instructions besides those printed on the back of the pouch.

Foreign aid plays a critical role in the United States’ efforts to help people in war-torn regions. As such, it is imperative for aid packages to be cost-effective and fast-acting.

The Combat Application Tourniquet and QuikClot are two life-saving technologies suited to meet the medical needs of many civilians and soldiers affected by armed conflict, especially those in Syria, where thousands of men, women and children continue to die because of blood loss.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Officer Survival


Oculostaple is a tool that is designed to restore vision in people with drooping eyelids, or ptosis. Ptosis can have any number of causes, from Myasthenia gravis (an autoimmune, neuromuscular disorder) to a stroke, a tumor, or simply old age.

It was designed by undergraduate students at Georgia Tech, Drew Padilla, Jacki Borinski, and Mohamad Ali Najia. Najia is now the CEO of the Oculostaple company.

The device works by simultaneously cutting away excess muscle and sealing up the cut that it creates. Before, correcting the issue was the result of a surgery that took about 45 minutes in an operating room. With Oculostaple, drooping eyelids can be resolved with local anesthesia in a doctor’s office, in a procedure that lasts about five minutes. It will also decrease the cost of each individual surgery by about $5,000.

Due to its impressive features, the Oculostaple recently received second place in the National Institute of Health Design by Biomedical Undergraduate Teams (DEBUT) Challenge. The award, given to undergraduate students, was based on the impact the new invention would have on clinical care, the significance of the problem being addressed, the ingenuity of the design, and the creation of a prototype.

It’s not widely available just yet – the Oculostaple team is working with the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) to create it into a marketable medical device that will eventually be completely disposable.

GCMI is a nonprofit organization that brings together players in the medical device community to help “enhance their product development, shorten time to market, and potentially achieve significant cost savings” in the process of bringing the devices to market. Oculostaple also won first place last year at Georgia Tech’s fall Capstone Design Expo, and second place at its Inventure Prize competition.

While 200,000 Americans undergo surgery to correct drooping eyelids each year, the possibilities for this new device extend far beyond helping Americans be able to see better (and drive safer). Ophthalmologists throughout the medical community are excited for the device, which will make this surgery easy to perform. As the Oculostaple website states, it “also has broad applicability in laparoscopic, gastrointestinal, and biopsy procedures.”

Imagine the possibilities in treating diseases in poorer countries with the creation of technology like this. Gastrointestinal problems are common in third world countries, as people don’t always have access to clean water. Oculostaple could mean safer, faster, cheaper, and more effective treatment for a wide range of problems.

This surgical clamp removes the problem that sometimes occurs in eyelid surgery: the doctors accidentally cut their own sutures as they are trying to cut off excess muscle. Now, both parts of the procedure can be done simultaneously.

In an interview with Charlie Bennett, Najia described the process of how the device came to be, from the beginning, running tests on microwaved pieces of chicken skin, to redesigning the concept again and again, to being halfway out of the stadium with his teammates when their first place at their school’s Capstone competition was announced. Through it all, he said, “I think it’s been a very worthwhile endeavor.”

The development of a revolutionary device is an excellent example of how people throughout the medical community are working everyday to make a healthier world. Whether they are seasoned medical professionals or undergraduate students, they can make a difference, and they are.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Devices, NIH, Georgia Institute of Technology, News Medical, North Avenue Lounge, Oculostaple
Photo: Flickr

artificial molecular tweezer,CLR01, an artificial molecular tweezer, was developed a little over ten years ago in order to study its reaction with different kinds of amino acids (also known as the building blocks of proteins). One of these amino acids turned out to be lysine, which is a key substance found in proteins that support HIV infections.

What happens is that once CLR01, also referred to as an “artificial molecular tweezer,” interacts with lysine, it disrupts the formation thereof while also interfering with the structure on the surface of the HIV also called the viral envelope.

According to the coauthored article published by eLife journal entitled ‘A molecular tweezer antagonizes seminal amyloids and HIV infection’, “CLR01 counteracts both host factors that may be important for HIV transmission and the pathogen itself.

These combined anti-amyloid and antiviral activities make CLR01 a promising topical microbicide for blocking infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted viruses.”

CLR01 was actually tested on other STIs, and it was found that the molecular tweezers also interfered with the viral envelope of the herpes simplex virus and the hepatitis C virus. This is good news for people in developing countries who have, for years, been suffering from preventable diseases.

According to UNAIDs, around one billion people currently lack access to health care and an estimated 33.4 million people were living with HIV in the year 2008.

In Africa specifically, there have been measures taken to increase funding for health care, but there are many economic problems that have not been addressed. Associations like the World Bank and IMF have required governments to sacrifice needs in favor of macroeconomic growth.

“The failure to prioritize public health denies its significance in promoting long-term economic growth. As the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health recently concluded, health is more than an outcome of development, it is a crucial means to achieving development.”

Breakthroughs such as that of the molecular artificial tweezers would not only be beneficial to those living in first world countries but all over the world.

Anna Brailow

Sources: eLife,, Global Issues,, Health Freedoms
Photo: IFL Science