Artificial Blood – Ten Years Away?

Whenever an event happens that is declared catastrophic, like a highly-ranked earthquake or a sudden viral outbreak [like Avian Flu, not zombies] there is often a shortage of blood to follow. This is because of the many people that end up requiring blood transfusuions to stay alive. But all this could change sooner than you might think.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh has recently created the first artificial red blood cells successfully.  That’s right, artificial cells that can actually carry oxygen like their natural counterparts. They are not fully synthetic cells, but are actually created from human stem cells. Currently the researchers are trying to find a way to manufacture them in larger numbers, but once they do, using these artificial cells would eliminate the need for the massive amounts of energy and electricity used to store, transport and preserve natural bloods.

The benefits of using these artificial cells seem to largely outweigh the liabilities. While not as effective as natural bloods, they would eliminate the risk of diseases and illnesses being transferred in the blood like HIV or Hepatitis, for example. However, in cases where there are severe shortages in blood, or even in areas where there are not blood banks around, the new stem cells could help save millions of lives in the aforementioned catastrophic events.

Using the artificial cells also eliminates the need for blood-typing. Currently the scientists are perfecting their cells, and while they would possibly be ready for medical trials within two years, they estimate that they would not be used in the field for at least ten years to come.


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October 2011
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