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What are the Different Types of Artificial Blood?

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  • Written By: Jami Yontz
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Artificial blood, also known as oxygen therapeutics, works by carrying oxygen throughout the body. It does not act as a blood substitute as it cannot accomplish all of the things that real blood is responsible for. Doctors use artificial blood whenever they are concerned that a person has lost too much blood to be able to deliver oxygen from the lungs to every cell in the body. Hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOC) and perfluorocarbons are the two main types of artificial blood, and are categorized by the way in which they carry oxygen.

Hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers are made from expired real blood, cow blood, or artificial hemoglobin that has been sterilized and made stronger by binding the cell to a polymer or another hemoglobin. This type of oxygen therapeutic acts very similar to red blood cells, but the cells are smaller and can carry more oxygen. HBOCs only stay in the person’s body for one day, but it can cause high blood pressure, stomach cramping, and could lead to iron overload.

Perfluorocarbons are mainly composed of hydrogen and fluorine, and they are emulsified in substances such as lecithin before they are transfused. This type of cell can carry much more oxygen than normal blood cells, and sometimes this overload of oxygen can cause free radicals to be released in the body. Perfluorocarbons are smaller than blood cells and can travel into areas of the body that are swollen or abnormal because of disease or trauma.

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Artificial blood is usually given to a patient after the doctor has transfused the person’s blood with volume expanders, which is substance similar to saline. The infusion keeps the person’s blood pressure normal until the body can create new blood cells and plasma. Oxygen therapeutics are valuable in many emergency situations, as the blood has no type and can be used for anyone.

Real blood must be stored cooled in a refrigerator, and is usually only viable for about six weeks, while artificial blood has a shelf life of nearly a year and does not require refrigeration, making it a good alternative for field physicians and those in areas of the world where there conditions are much more hostile. There is a risk with a blood transfusion that the blood is contaminated with various conditions, such as hepatitis. Artificial blood can be sterilized, and as demand grows, oxygen therapeutics can be manufactured to meet the need.

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candyquilt
Post 4

@bear78-- The new artificial blood you are referring to as of 2014 is a different type of blood. That's engineered blood that really contains red blood cells. It has been developed by Scottish doctors. It's type 0 negative blood, so everyone can receive it since this type is a universal blood donor. In fact, we can't really call this artificial blood at all since it contains real red blood cells.

This blood is still in the trial stage as you mentioned. If it works out, it might become available after 2016. Or maybe scientists will come up with something better, who knows.

bear78
Post 3

@ysmina-- Yes, but artificial blood isn't really blood. It doesn't have red blood cells. It simply helps carry oxygen throughout the body when the person's red blood cells cannot do it on their own. And as far as I know this is a new advancement as of 2014. It has yet to become available in hospitals globally although I suspect it will soon.

ysmina
Post 2

I just learned about artificial blood in class this week. I had no idea that it existed. I've certainly not seen any of my relatives treated with it.

It's actually very cool that this exists and can keep a patient stable until a suitable blood types is found and other precautions are taken. I think artificial blood must be particularly valuable for difficult to find blood types. I for example have 0 Rh+ blood type. I can give blood to all blood types but I can only receive 0 Rh+ which is very difficult to find as a small percentage of the population has this blood type. I could be in trouble in an emergency but it's good to know that if required, doctors can give me artificial blood as a temporary solution.

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