Those of you who've been following us for a while might remember that, last year, we reported on the development of an awesome sponge-filled injection, that could plug a gunshot wound and stop it bleeding in 20 seconds flat.

And although it often takes decades for technology like this to hit the market, the company behind the device has just announced that the injection has already saved its first life on the battlefield, proving its success in the field for the first time.

Known as XStat, the injection is filled with tiny cellulose sponges that are made from wood pulp, and coated in a coagulant and an antimicrobial called chitosan, which comes from crustacean shells. 

As Bec Crew reported for us last year:

"These tablet-shaped sponges measure 9.8 millimetres in diameter and can absorb 3 millilitres of blood or body fluid each. As soon as they come into contact with blood, the sponges rapidly expand to about 10 times their original size, and swell to fill the wound cavity in about 20 seconds to form a temporary blockage for the blood flow."

Thanks to those impressive abilities, XStat was first approved for military use back in 2014, in the hopes that it might be able to save lives on the battlefield.

Now, two years later, RevMedx, the company behind XStat, has reported the first case of that actually happening. In this situation, an unnamed coalition forces soldier had received a gunshot wound to the left thigh, opening up the femoral artery and damaging the femur.

A tourniquet was immediately applied, but after 7 hours of surgery, doctors still couldn't stop the residual bleeding from the wound.

Eventually, the surgical team applied a single injection of XStat to the wound, resulting in "nearly immediate haemostasis". In other words, the bleeding stopped straight away. The soldier stabilised and was moved to a definitive care facility.

"The first-in-human experience with XStat is the culmination of tremendous effort on the part of both RevMedx and our military collaborators," said Andrew Barofsky, CEO of RevMedx. "We are pleased to see XStat play a critical role in saving a patient's life and hope to see significant advancement toward further adoption of XStat as a standard of care for severe haemorrhage in pre-hospital settings."

In December last year, a civilian version of the device, XStat30, was approved for use and rolled out to ambulance staff around the US, with the hopes that it will be used to patch up anyone who's at immediate threat of dying due to blood loss. No data has been released as yet on whether Xstat30 has been used in real-world situations.

But according to RevMedx, the device can stop bleeding for around 4 hours, and up to three of the injections can be applied if the wound is really severe.

The best part is, unlike tourniquets, which are currently applied to slow down blood loss, the pressure from XStat comes from the inside of the wound. That means it has a better chance of plugging all the subtle sources of bleeding.

Plus each sponge contains a radiopaque marker so it can be picked up by X-ray imaging and removed later (nothing worse than a sponge going missing during surgery).

It's great to see a device we've written about in the early stages being used within just a few years to save lives in the real world, and we can't wait to hear about XStat doing just that over and over again. Thank you, science.