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Watertown Company Develops Life-Saving Trauma Foam

BOSTON (CBS) - It looks like a simple caulking gun. But it's no ordinary tool.

"The potential impact is truly revolutionary," says Dr. David King.

Dr. King is a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has seen the horror of battle up close from the Boston Marathon bombings to war zones as an Army medic.

"Guys who have to be pronounced dead because they have an injury that could be fixed but they died before you could even get your hands on them... extremely frustrating."

To give these wounded warriors a fighting chance Dr. King has teamed up with Arsenal Medical of Watertown to develop a so-called trauma foam.

"It's really about taking someone who is going to die and giving them a couple of hours to get to a surgeon where once you get to a surgeon you have a pretty good chance of survival," explains Dr. Upma Sharma, the director of material science at Arsenal Medical.

Once a soldier is hit with enemy fire or a road-side bomb it's crucial to stop internal bleeding. That's where this foam comes in.

Trauma Foam
Trauma Foam. (WBZ-TV)

This is "an intervention that can be done on the ground, in the mud, on the battlefield," explains Dr. King.

Once injected into the body the foam quickly expands to fill the abdominal cavity. This applies life-saving pressure and can stabilize the patient. Once the patient reaches an operating room the foam can be easily peeled away.

The Arsenal Medical team gave us a demonstration. They filled the bottom of a container with the liquid and within 90 seconds its expanded and hardened to fill the space. In a second demonstration we saw the foam force a balloon to fully inflate.

While the foam was designed for combat it could save lives here at home too.

Dr. Sharma says, "we're learning that there is a really large civilian need as well," like car crashes, a gunshot wound, or even a bad fall.

Until now the foam has been a virtual success in sci-fi video games. Fans of the video game "Halo" know it as Bio-foam. And thanks to a $25 million grant from the Department of Defense, Arsenal Medical's real-life foam could win FDA approval later this year.

"I will take having a surviving casualty any day as a big win for us," says Dr. King. And he hopes to see that big win on his next deployment.

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