Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Artificial blood from marine life

The increase in concern over the safety of blood transfusions has led to a reluctance to donate and receive human blood. To overcome this problem, a blood substitute extracted from marine worms, has been developed which could be used as a replacement for human haemoglobin or for organ preservation.
Artificial blood from marine life
Blood is an essential body fluid. It is responsible for the transport of oxygen to body tissues and for carrying away wastes such as carbon dioxide. Thus the transfusion of blood in cases where a person has suffered blood loss is essential. However, recent discoveries about the danger of blood borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis have resulted in panic. Despite screening procedures, it is still possible for infected blood to be transfused, passing the illness onto the patient. Because of this and other problems in transfusing human blood, blood substitutes are essential.

A blood substitute is a material which, when put inside the body, will be able to perform all the functions of blood. Among other things it must be able to transport oxygen to tissues, and carry carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. It must be non toxic, stable, free of infectious risk and available in large quantities. Such a compound has been isolated from the annelid, or marine worm, in the form of high-molecular-weight extra cellular haemoglobin.

Extracellular haemoglobins are giant molecules with a high molecular weight. In annelids they play the same role as haemoglobin does in humans, they bind oxygen and deliver it to different tissues. Using polymerised haemoglobin from annelids, blood transfusions were carried out on mice, giving the first positive results for such transfusions.

An application has been made for the patent of this process and further research and development is being conducted. A licence agreement is also being sought.
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