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New grant for blood substitutes

30.10.2008
Researchers in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex have been awarded almost £115,000 to develop a life-saving blood substitute.

Anyone who has given blood or received a transfusion knows just how vital blood supplies are. Although no one would doubt the need for blood in life-saving emergencies, there are growing concerns about its use in routine operations.

There are other limitations as Professor Chris Cooper explained: ‘Blood has a short shelf-life, needs to be matched for blood group and there is the ever-present possibility of a new blood-borne virus, such as HIV-AIDS, contaminating the supply.’

It is these concerns that have for some time fuelled the drive, amongst academic and industrial communities, to develop an artificial replacement that would be guaranteed virus free and storable, for long periods of time, in ambulances and locations far from hospitals.

Professor Cooper, with his colleagues Professor Mike Wilson and Dr Brandon Reeder, have now received £114,938 from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to develop their patented ideas for a novel blood substitute.

Professor Cooper said: ‘Our inventions relate to toxic molecules called free radicals that are produced from haemoglobin, the red oxygen carrying protein in blood. We have worked out a way to control radical reactivity when modified haemoglobins are used as artificial oxygen carriers.’

The new molecules are being manufactured by collaborators at the University of Lund, Sweden, and tested in the Federal Drug Administration laboratories in the US under the supervision of Essex graduate Dr Abdu Alayash.

Kate Clayton | alfa
Further information:
http://www.essex.ac.uk

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