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Medical Miracles: Synthetic Blood

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Hello my name is Alyssa and I am a senior at Monona Grove High School. I am apart of U.S. Healthcare Systems and currently researching synthetic blood. I chose this topic because this is something that directly connects to Monona Grove. Once a year MG host a local blood drive in our gym. This is a way to collect blood for patients who need it, but with the new discovery, synthetic blood, there may not be a need or shortage anymore! I am attending UW-Stevens Point next year as a dance major but in a few years I plan on going into the medical field of some sort. The world of medicine is always changing a growing which makes life so much more interesting! 

Synthetic Blood; Saving Lives

Guide: Alyssa Puccio

Medical Miracle

In the U.S. right now, 41,000 pints of blood are needed everyday. There is an estimated 38% of the population that is eligible to donate blood but only 10% actually do and in some cases this can be fatal. Blood is very crucial in hospitals. Blood is always needed for treatment of accident victims, cancer patients, hemophiliacs, and surgical patients, the list goes on. There is a constant search for blood donors, but what happens where there is not enough blood to go around? Doctors and researchers are looking for safe, alternative options for patients and their need for blood, on the hunt for a new medical miracle; synthetic blood. 

Significant Discovery

Artificial or synthetic blood is made to act as a substitute for red blood cells. Since blood has so many uses and roles in the body, the sole purpose for synthetic blood is to transport carbon dioxide and oxygen throughout the body. For blood to be "made" it goes through many cycles, synthetic production, chemical isolation, or different biochemical technology. 

For synthetic blood to be a useful aid in medicine, it must be safe and compatible within the body. The goal of this is to remove the label of "blood types" and disregard those ideas. Different blood types should not have to matter when blood is infused. In the lab they must remove disease-causing agents such as viruses and other microorganisms. While the artificial blood needs to be safe to be use it also must successfully transport oxygen through out the whole body and properly distribute where needed as well as be shelf-sustainable. Unlike blood that is donated, like what we use today, synthetic blood can be stored for over a year before it begins to break down. 

So how is the "fake" blood actually made? Well, there are actually various ways to do it! For hemoglobin-based products it usually requiters isolation or synthesization of hemoglobin, modification of molecules, and then reconstruction of the formula. Bellow is process of hemoglobin synthesization. 

  • To generate hemoglobin, there is a specific bacteria used to generate human hemoglobin called E. coli. Within a few days the protein is harvested and then goes through a process to destroy any existing bacteria. To start the fermentation process, the scientist must take the bacteria culture and put it into a testing tube with other necessary growth nutrients. This then allows the bacteria to multiply. 
  •  When there is enough bacteria produced they will then move the bacteria into a seed tank. This specific tank is an ideal environment to grow bacteria. The tank is filled with basic needs for life and an ammonia source. Through out this process, there will be a constant input of vitamins and amino acids. When inserting the other nutrients, they will then compress air into the tank to keep it moving. Once the mixing is finished, they will transfer this to a fermentation tank.
  • The fermentation tank is very similar to the seed tank, except much larger. The fermentation tank is filled with all the same nutrients but there will also be an optimal growth additive, ammonia water. Ammonia water is used to regulate pH which is very important in hemoglobin production. Once there is an abundance of hemoglobin produced, the tank will be emptied and the hemoglobin will be prepared for isolation. 
  • Once isolation begins, it will be split using a centrifugal separator, which spins the hemoglobin. If the product is not segregated enough, it can be further separated by using fractional distillation. Basically, the hemoglobin is boiled to separate certain components. After this, it is then transferred to final processing.
  • In the final process, the hemoglobin is mixed with water and other important electrolytes to complete the final components of blood. The synthetic blood is then pasteurized and put into appropriate packaging. In the final step, they will complete many chemical checks such as pH, melting point, and moisture. Throughout the production, they are able to make batches up to 2,640gal. 

  

Emerging Innovations

Synthetic blood is a very new piece of research so it is almost too soon to look at emerging innovations. Currently there are companies working on eliminating certain limitations within blood substitutes. Most of hemoglobin products last no more than 30 hours in the body. This compares to transfusions of whole blood that last 34 days. The synthetic blood researches are attempting to create have the one sole purpose of oxygen transport so artificial blood does not mimic "regular" bloods ability to fight diseases and clot.

Within the idea of synthetic blood, there is still so much to figure out and discover within the ability of blood in the human body. Right now artificial blood is being created for only short-term replacements. In the future, there is hope that that new materials will be introduced to allow for that blood to be used in long-term situations and longer lasting products as well as products that perform other functions of blood. 

Social Impact

 
  Positive Effects   Negative Effects
Medical  There won't be a dying need for blood, there should be enough for everyone Time and money it take to produce synthetic blood. Is it efficient? 
Professional This could open up new spots for jobs and may increase pay for lab researchers  Synthetic blood could cost quite a bit of money to produce and may require additional training
Ethical There is not a lot that goes into the ethics. It is a fair procedure. Some may not agree with different procedures within the process especially if stem cells are included
Legal It is very legal and is a safer option that donated blood from humans.  There could be possible legal problems if the process is not done correctly. 
Economic

This discovery will soon sky rocket because there is such a demand for blood. If it takes off, cost could increase but it would most likely be covered by most insurance companies.

Because this is such a new discovery, it may or may not be covered by insurance. 

 

 

Visuals and Diagrams

Image result for making artificial blood

Purification and transfusion to patient (diagram) 

Related imageImage result for synthetic blood

Media

So what is blood actually composed of? Check out this Crash Course video! 

This year, they will begin the synthetic blood study. Watch this video to get further information on the study and where this will take us in the future! 

Watch this video to see how synthetic blood is made and the transfusion process! 

Learn More...

What do you think?

Poll
Do you think that synthetic blood is the solution for the "no blood" situation?
Yes, synthetic blood is the answer to all of our questions!: 1 votes (25%)
Maybe, I think that synthetic blood is a possible solution but still has some unanswered questions.: 3 votes (75%)
No, with all the spread of disease, I think this is too unsafe and may cause more problems.: 0 votes (0%)
I think there are other solutions to the blood problem.: 0 votes (0%)
Synthetic blood is not worth the study and trials: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 4

Future Directions

Because this is such a new study and there are not many trials completed right this moment, I think its very hard to predict the future for synthetic blood. Personally, I think this is an amazing idea and could have so much potential in medicine! I find it to crazy that blood can be made for you without it coming from a blood donor. This could be the answer to blood shortages in all of our hospitals. I know for me, I get many many emails from the Red Cross requesting me to donate blood, there is never enough. This could be revolutionary for patients in the hospitals in desperate need for blood input and transfusions. This can ultimately save lives.

This is a great way to prevent disease transfer in unsafe transfusions. The blood is "clean" and comes from its original source, not from a random donor. While this is such an amazing creation, what does this process cost? What is so great is that blood donations are relatively free and accessible. With the demanding fermentation of hemoglobin this can ultimately cost quite a bit of money. The next question this leads me to is how much time will this take. Patients in serious need of blood don't have time to wait for the product. Since the synthetic blood can be stored for over a year, maybe there could be ways to make it in bulk. 

Synthetic blood has opened so many doors for medicine but have we researched this enough, further than the medical side of it? Artificial blood is such a baby in the world of research. There is so much more to learn. 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Why We Need More Blood Donors | Hofstra | New York. (2018). Hofstra.edu. Retrieved 4 January 2018, from https://www.hofstra.edu/studentaffairs/blood/blood_why.html

Why Give Blood | Community Blood Center. (2018). Givingblood.org. Retrieved 4 January 2018, from http://givingblood.org/donate-blood/why-give-blood.aspx

Sarkar, S. (2008). Artificial bloodIndian Journal Of Critical Care Medicine12(3), 140. doi:10.4103/0972-5229.43685

 

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