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Blood Donations and Artificial Blood
"Remember this, all of you. Nothing counts so much as blood."
Nicholas Earp, Wyatt Earp, Warner Bros. Pictures.
Unless you're specifically working with whole blood samples for flow cytometry, you may not be thinking about your blood too often. And, it can be taken for granted until some type of disaster strikes. Even on a small scale, a single car accident victim can require 50 pints of blood (a single donation is typically 1 pint of blood). Aside from emergencies, blood is also routinely used for everyday procedures and people, like premature babies, people with sickle cell disease or those undergoing chemotherapy.
One unit is approximately equal to one pint.
A single donation can be separated into its different products (red blood cells, platelets, plasma, and cryoprecipitate). Typically, two or three of these products can be isolated from a pint of donated whole blood, hence each donation can help save up to three lives. Thus, in both everyday life and during times of emergency, blood donations are in high demand, particularly from those who can serve as a universal donor. As we noted in our past blog about transplant rejection here, blood types must be accounted for during blood transfusions.
Donors have to be matched according to the recipient to prevent an immune reaction.

The American Red Cross helps with more than just blood supply.
The American Red Cross has a program that started in 1940 and currently supplies approximately 40% of the nation’s blood supply. But, even the American Red Cross has experienced shortages in blood supplies. Recently, the harsh winter storms created a shortage by cancelling an estimated 1,500 blood drives nationwide. Summers also create shortages as blood drives aren't as common on campuses once school has let out.

Heart of Steel (Hemoglobin)
by Julian Voss-Andreae.
With all this demand, what if we could actually manufacture blood? Haem02 is a project based out of the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. Their goal is to create an artificial blood that can be widely produced and distributed. Hemoglobin is an iron containing protein carried by red blood cells. Its main job is to carry oxygen to the various parts of your body. However, hemoglobin is often toxic when outside the confines of a red blood cell. Haem02 is aiming to create a recombinant hemoglobin that allows the body to naturally detoxify high oxidation state iron and free radicals created by the recombinant.
There are many advantages associated with this project:
  • Although blood is screened for diseases like hepatitis, there can be unknown blood-borne pathogens in a transfusion.
  • Blood donors would no longer have to be matched to their recipients.
  • There is a time limit on blood donations. Haem02 wants to extend the shelf life of their product.
Haem02 is an exciting project that could shore up our supplies of blood and lend immediate help for any emergency situations may suddenly pop up. Until this project is realized, you may want to help your community by donating with the American Red Cross. There are, of course, some restrictions for the safety of the donors and recipients, which you can learn about here. Check the links below for more information, and let us know if you have any comments here.
  1. American Red Cross Blood Donations
  2. Haem02 News Article
  3. Haem02 Project and the University of Essex

-Have you eaten today?
-I had some Lebanese food for lunch.
-Mmm...I love the Lebanese...

-I’m-I’m not sure I want to do thi-

-Enough with the formalities. Let's get started, shall we?

Just when I thought I got the hang of science...(Geico®).
Contributed by Ken Lau, PhD.
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