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Could Synthetic Blood Replace Human Blood Donations?

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By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) — Blood donation is a near-constant need. Car accident victims can require up to 100 pints of blood to save their lives, according to the American Red Cross. The blood situation is almost always dire; although around two-fifths of the US population is eligible to donate blood, fewer than one in 10 actually takes that step, again according to Red Cross estimates. That’s why news from the UK’s National Health Service that it will begin testing synthetic blood transfusion in 2017—as reported by The Independent in June 2015—is so exciting.

Should the program work, it would begin by allowing the specialized use of custom-made blood, and in time deliver a limitless amount of the blood to healthcare providers for emergency and routine transfusions. The initiative is ramping up slowly. In order to test for donor rejection, subjects will receive only a small amount—a few teaspoons—of the manufactured blood. But so far, news from the lab is good. Dr. Nick Watkins, Assistant Director of Research and Development at NHS Blood and Transplant, told The Independentthat lab testing has returned results indicating that the synthetic blood cells are comparable, if not identical, to the cells from a donor. The synthetic blood, according to The Independent, is manufactured from stem cells. The initial blood tested will be manufactured from stem cells donated by adults; if everything goes well, the second batch of blood tested will be sourced from umbilical cord blood collected with mothers’ consent during delivery.

While this is an interesting advance, it is just the latest step in an ongoing search for the Holy Grail: reducing the overall need for blood donations. Of the three components that make up blood—platelets, plasma and cells—red blood cells are in the most demand, according to the Red Cross. The UK’s National Health Service hopes that by creating an unlimited supply of red blood cells, it can increase patient survival rates and improve overall outcomes.

While most efforts to alleviate the blood shortage involve collecting more blood or devising new ways to manufacture it, another way science is making strides is by minimizing the amount of blood needed during surgery. “The creation of synthetic blood is a significant step forward, but it is not the only path being pursued,” says Terrence W. Norchi, president and CEO of Arch Therapeutics. “By coming at the problem from the other end—attempting to decrease the number of transfusions necessary during surgery—we can do our part to address the issue.”

Arch Therapeutics, based in Framingham, MA, is studying a new peptide product—the AC5 Surgical Hemostatic Device™—that improves the control of bleeding during surgery, based on animal studies to date. It could one day prove to be an effective tool for reducing bleeding during surgery.

In June 2015, the company reported that it had obtained data from a preclinical toxicity test for AC5™, which supported that the device was well-tolerated and classified as “not toxic” in a standardized test of systemic toxicity. The systemic toxicity animal test is a major component of the biocompatibility test panel that a medical device must typically complete successfully prior to being studied in humans. Results from this biocompatibility safety study indicate that AC5’s peptide structure and mechanism of action, which is based on the formation of a local physical-mechanical barrier at the wound site, does not promote toxicity to the overall biological system following injection of standardized AC5 solutions into animals.

“Giving patients and surgeons new options to minimize blood loss and ensure an adequate blood supply is an important goal we all care about,” adds Norchi.

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