MedicalDaily reports that a Romanian scientist from the town of Cluj-Napoca in historical Transylvania may have just created the first synthetic and side-effect-free artificial blood substitute.
This new blood doesn't use hemoglobin to carry oxygen like previous blood synthesis attempts; instead, it uses a protein called hemerythrin which is extracted from a specific kind of invertebrate sea worm found in the ocean. The hemerythrin is mixed with water, some salts, and potential applications are innumerable.
Hemerythrin-based artificial blood is not a deep red like hemoglobin-based blood, but more of a translucent yellow; the team dyed it red for familiarity's sake. The new artificial blood is preferable to hemoglobin-derived alternatives because hemerythrin remains capable of enduring the chemical and physical stresses of an organic body much longer than hemoglobin, which generally falls apart under the same conditions.
One of the principal researchers, Dr. Radu Silaghi-Dumitrescu, said doctors could use the artificial blood to lower the rate of infection in clinics to infected donor blood, and that if it passes muster, it could supply oxygen to patients for up to a day.
"Mice treated with this ‘Made in Cluj’ artificial blood did not experience any side effects, and this is precisely what we want," he told Romanian reporters, adding that he's not interested in human testing until the team is 100 percent certain that there is no blood toxicity risk. "Tests on humans are an extra gentle subject – authorization…represents a huge risk," he said.
A Smithsonian blog by author Tuan C. Nguyen notes the unfortunate history of the search for viable artificial blood, which she acknowledges "has become a medical “holy grail” of sorts... So much so in fact that some of the brightest minds in medical science, hailing from ambitious startups to multi-billion dollar health care companies, have exposed an unknowing public to risky experiments that have thus far only yielded disheartening, and at times, disastrous consequences."
The FDA refuses to approve any hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers because of potential toxicity, but the use of hemerythrin might one day lead researchers to a portable "instant blood" that could be mixed with water and administered under any conditions -- battlefield, hospital, or otherwise.[Image via YouTube]