Study: New blood substitute may be safer than donor blood

Substance could revolutionise blood transfusions

A new blood substitute has been developed which could be a safer and more effective alternative to using donor blood.

The substance, described as ‘superior to blood in many ways’ by a study in the journal Artificial Cells, Nanomedicine and Biotechnology, can be stored for 320 days at room temperature, compared to normal blood which can only last for one day. This makes it easier to access, transport and therefore more suited to emergency situations when blood is urgently needed. Unlike blood, it can be heat treated to inactivate infectious agents.

The substance is created by crosslinking haemoglobin, superoxide dismutase, catalase and carbonic anhydrase to form a soluble polyHb-SOD-CAT-CA nanobiotechnoloigical complex. Not only can it perform all the functions of a red blood cell, but each element has been enhanced by increasing the concentration of enzymes.

Professor Thomas Ming Swi Chang, lead author of study said:

During the HIV crisis in the late 1980s there was a real push from the scientific community to develop an effective blood substitute, to help stop the spread of the disease through blood transfusions. This led to 20 years of intensive R&D, but this only resulted in simple oxygen carriers in the form of PolyHb, for those conditions that only require an oxygen carrier.

Now that HIV is no longer a threat in donor blood for many countries, R&D in this area has again slowed down. We cannot afford to let history repeat itself, waiting until another major epidemic forces our hand to carry out more research. Thankfully, what we’ve shown here could well be a promising step forward towards a complete red blood cell substitute that we’ve been waiting for.

The study tested the substance on rat models undergoing severe hemorrhagic shock, an emergency condition in which severe blood and fluid loss make the heart unable to pump enough blood to the body. The new blood substitute performed better in the tests than donor blood. Results showed that in addition to supplying the needed oxygen, it was able to remove carbon dioxide and oxygen radicals from tissues more effectively, better maintain blood pressure and reduce the chance of a heart attack and damage to other vital organs.

Chang continued:

On top of halting the spread of disease, an effective blood substitute could provide huge help during major accidents or large-scale wars. We hope the potential of our approach will raise awareness of this issue, and expedite further research in all approaches around the world.

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