The humble spud may stand poised for a major medical breakthrough. A patented starchy powder made from potatoes appears to clot blood instantly.

That could come in handy during surgeries and emergency procedures and also reduce the number of blood transfusions, say researchers at the Mayo Clinic.

"It works like a sponge for water molecules in the blood, allowing the platelets to clot almost immediately," says lead researcher Dr. Mark H. Ereth, an associate professor of anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic.


The powder, approved for most surgical uses in the United States, Canada and Europe, sidesteps problems associated with other clotting agents. It is cheaper and cleaner than clotting agents made from human and cow plasma, and it avoids the risks of disease and allergic reaction, Ereth says.

In their study, the researchers made two tiny incisions in the arms of 30 people. One incision was treated with the potato powder; the other was left to clot on its own.

The untreated cut took almost six minutes to reach hemostasis (blood clotting), while 77% of the cuts treated with the powder stopped bleeding immediately.

"In the other 23% of cases, the clotting was rapid, but there was a little bit of oozing afterward," Ereth says.

The powder, which is made of purified potato starch processed to produce tiny, absorbent particles, can help surgeons avoid blood transfusions by preventing excessive bleeding. It's particularly useful for paramedics or combat doctors who must stabilize massive wounds to prevent shock and other complications from a major loss of blood, Ereth says.

All of that from a potato.

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