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Just add water: an emergency blood bank

I'm sure you've seen, fairly recently, a lot of advertisements calling for blood donation. Particularly in the U.K where the NHS pleads for blood donation so that hospitals and ambulances have enough blood in their blood bank to be able to provide it to patients during emergencies. However sometimes donations aren't enough, and science needs to find another solution, albeit temporary, to provide "man-made" blood for use in emergency blood transfusions.

The need increases especially when stored blood is unavailable or undesirable. Undesirable being defined as the blood type of the donor blood is not compatible with the patient's blood type or there isn’t enough blood ready for transfusion with the patient’s blood type.

Artificial Oxygen Carrier

Dr. Doctor and his colleges and his team have developed ErythroMer which is a new artificial blood substitute which is currently under trials, testing its efficacy before its official use in health care. It is a red, powder-like substance which takes the role of blood once it is dissolved in water.

Dr. Allan Doctor, a professor of paediatrics, biochemistry, and molecular biophysics at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, presented the new results in early December at the American Society of Hematology 58th Annual Meeting.

ErythroMer is a new solution in replacement of haemoglobin based oxygen carriers. Previously produced and tested haemoglobin oxygen carriers have proven to be inefficient because they carry oxygen around the body but they do not release it to bodily tissues.  They also trap nitric oxide which can lead to vasoconstriction and therefore high blood pressure.

Despite it being in the early stages of research, the blood substitute has provided very promising results in a proof of concept study in mice. Where they were able to prove that ErythroMer was able to deliver oxygen to mice tissues in the same way as mice blood and they were able to resuscitate rate that were in shock and had lost an average of 40% of their blood. 

The newly produced artificial blood (ErythroMer) is efficient at temporarily carrying oxygen around the body and releasing it to bodily tissues as required.  After passing several rigorous, initial, ex vivo and in vivo "proof of concept" testing and bench testing, this proves that ErythroMer is successful in emulating normal red blood cell physiologic interactions with oxygen and nitric oxide.

However, there is still 10 years worth of research and trials before the artificial blood product reaches patients in emergencies, till then, blood donation will still remain extremely essential. Next steps are to confirm our promising findings in a larger animal model, screen and address any toxicities, scale production, and eventually test for safety and efficacy in humans,” says Doctor.