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We need a lot of blood. There are never enough donors, and both advanced surgeries and emergency care rely heavily on large quantities of blood being available. Now, scientists think they may have synthesized blood that can replace the realthing.

In the USA, someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds, day and night: more than 41, 000 every day. And while the average requirement is around three pints, some people require far more. The average car accident victim requires as much as 100 pints of blood, and no, that's not a typo. Huge transfusions are necessary to maintain blood flow in someone who would otherwise bleed to death in minutes. Meanwhile, many people with cancer require blood transfusions daily, especially during chemotherapy. There are also conditions including thassalemia which are usually treated with transfusion.

So while over 15 million people donated blood in the USA last year, it's still nothing like enough. And in some developing countries, there's a permament, catastrophic blood shortage. 

People with serious injuries die because there's no blood to transfuse.

We get around this to some extent by splitting blood up into blood products.

Plasma

Plasma is the fluid that carries all the other blood components. Plasma is processed to produce clotting factor, which helps people with blood clotting disorders who don't need whole blood, and albumin. Albumin is used in treating burns victims and anyone who has suffered severe blood loss.

White Blood Cells

These are a vital component of the immune system, and people with serious inferctions that don't respond to antibiotics sometimes respond to having their immune systems beefed up by transfusions of white blood cells - reinforcements for their immune systems.

Platelets

Platelets are the part of blood that actually forms clots. For various reasons, some people have low [platelet count and bruise or bleed easily. Those people benefit from platelet transfusions.

Immunoglobulins

Immunogloulins are used top help vulnerable or immunocompromised people because they're active against specific diseases, so being given a transfusion of immunoglobulins form someone who is resistant to, say, chicken-pox can confer immunity on the person receiving the transfusion.

And finally...

Red Blood Cells

Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. Blood has a lot of jobs, as we've seen. But if the red cells aren't doing their job, the results can be fatal. So this blood conponent is the most vital and one of the most widely needed. 

There's never enough red blood cells.

Then there are people with rare blood types. While there may be enough blood in the system as a whole to treat everyone with an unusual blood type, what happens if it's not on hand in the emergency room when it's needed? If it's halfway across the state, it just the same as not being there at all, from that patient's point of view.

The best solution would be one that cut patients free from their reliance on donors. And a team of scientists from Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford universities, in the UK, has got closer than anyone yet.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • "New Artificial Blood Made In Transylvania, Could Lead To ‘Instant Blood’ Doctors Mix With Water," MedicalDaily.com, http://www.medicaldaily.com/new-artificial-blood-made-transylvania-could-lead-instant-blood-doctors-mix-water-261580 "NHS to give volunteers 'synthetic blood' made in laboratory within two years," The Independent, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/nhs-to-give-volunteers-synthetic-blood-made-in-a-laboratory-within-two-years-10343279.html "Artificial blood 'will be manufactured in factories'," Daily Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10765132/Artificial-blood-will-be-manufactured-in-factories.html "Blood Facts and Statistics," Red Cross, http://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-facts-and-statistics "Artificial Blood Is Patient-Ready," The Scientist, http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/39718/title/Artificial-Blood-Is-Patient-Ready/

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