Substituting blood transfusions

Do you have a rare blood group or are you concerned about contracting a disease such as HIV from a blood transfusion? The first ever European Blood Substitutes project (‘EuroBloodSubstitutes’) is designing molecules which will be able to replace the need for blood during transfusions in the future. Researchers are modifying the genes of the oxygen-carrying part of the blood (haemoglobin) and using cell factories to mass produce artificial molecules which will be able to oxygenate the body’s cells as efficiently, but without the possibility of contamination with disease.

Dr Ken Lowe (University of Nottingham, UK) who is coordinating the project says “We are using genomics to modify the haemoglobin as well as looking at ways to attach it to large molecules so that it stays in the body longer during transfusions. We are aiming to find the optimum molecules for oxygen-binding and transport as well as the best culture conditions for mass producing it for the future.” Dr Lowe will be reporting his results at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Barcelona on Tuesday 12th July [session E3.2].

This initiative is set to revolutionise blood transfusions which will become largely safe especially in emerging countries such as Eastern Europe and Africa where there are still relatively high risks of contamination.

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