Blood alternative reduces risk of disease


In the US today, the risk of acquiring HIV through a blood transfusion has been reduced to almost 1 in 900,000 (1). However, the safety and quantity of our blood supply remains a constant concern. Research, discussed in a recent study published in Artificial Organs, has helped to create Hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs), an alternative to donor blood that is potentially safer and can help to solve the shortages in donor blood supply.

There are numerous potential advantages of this substance for the general public and in the military community. In addition to the minimization of exposure to blood-borne diseases that may be carried in donor blood supplies, such as HIV and West Nile virus, HBOCs can be stored longer than the 5-week shelf-life of red blood cells, which makes it ideal in situations of natural or manmade disasters when large quantities of blood and blood products may be needed.

According to the article, HBOCs have been in development for well over 100 years. HBOCs increase tissue perfusion, increased oxygen delivery to tissues throughout the body, as would happen in a transfusion with regular donor blood. However, HBOCs are not permanent substitutes for they do not remain in the circulation as long as red cells nor are they complete blood substitutes as they do not contain clotting factors or the cellular elements of the human body's defense system. In any case, HBOCs can be considered an effective temporary solution in situations where improved tissue perfusion is desirable. The potential of having HBOCs in supply in situations when there is massive hemorrhaging can be lifesaving; use of HBOCs in elective surgery can effectively increase the blood supply, creating as much as "a 20% increase in the usable blood supply if applied to cardiac surgery alone."

"If approved, HBOCs will help to alleviate shortages in the donor blood supply while providing patients with a needed increase in oxygen delivery to tissues in a timely fashion," explains author, Dr. A. G. Greenburg. "Blood shortages and the risk of transmission of infectious disease, along with other consequences of the transfusion of red cells, e.g. altered immune response, cry out for the development of a shelf-storable, safe substitute for the oxygen delivery capacity of blood."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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