In the field of medicine, getting replacement blood into patients as soon as possible can make the difference between life or death.
Scientists are working to develop artificial blood cells that could bring life-saving transfusions to more trauma patients within the next 10 years.
The hope is that the artificial blood could be freeze dried and stored in powder form, ready for use by paramedics and combat medical on the battlefield
Even though it won’t replace human blood, it could buy patients vital time they need to get to hospital and receive a blood transfusion. These synthetic cells are just one-fiftieth the size of a human red blood cells.
Artificial blood is somewhat mind boggling. One of the reason is that most people think of blood as more than just connective tissue that carries oxygen and nutrients. Instead, blood represents life. It can seem almost impossible, that an artificial substance could replace something is so central to human life. To understand the process, it helps to know a little about how real blood works. Blood has two main components : plasma and formed elements.
Nearly everything that blood carries, including nutrients, hormones and waste, is dissolved in the plasma, which is mostly water. Formed elements, which are cells and parts of cells, also float in the plasma. Formed elements include white blood cells (WBCs), which are part of the immune system, and platelets, which help form clots. Red blood cells (RBCs) are responsible for one of blood’s most important tasks helps in carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide.
If you lose a lot of blood, you lose a lot of your oxygen delivery system. The immune cells, nutrients and proteins that blood carries are important, too, but doctors are generally most concerned with whether your cells are getting enough oxygen.
Artificial BLOOD stored as powder could be used in life-saving transfusions within the next 10 years.
At around 2 per cent the size of a human red blood cell, the synthetic blood cells can be stored at room temperature and mixed with water, ready for use.
It can be stored in an IV plastic bag that a medic would carry, either in their ambulance or in a backpack, for a year or more. When they need to use it, they spike the bag with sterile water, mix it, and it’s ready to inject right then and there.
From a forensic point of view, it would be brilliant if it mimicked the complex internal structure of blood, behaving in the same manner as real blood so it could be used for training purposes in the forensic field.