Artificial blood is a fascinating concept that has been explored by scientists for decades. The idea of being able to create a synthetic alternative to human blood could revolutionize medicine and save countless lives. However, despite years of research, artificial blood is not currently viable. In this article, we will explore the reasons why.
What is Artificial Blood?
Artificial blood, also known as blood substitute, is a laboratory-created substance designed to mimic the oxygen-carrying capabilities of human blood. The goal of artificial blood is to provide a safe and readily available alternative to traditional blood transfusions.
There are two main types of artificial blood: hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) and perfluorocarbon-based oxygen carriers (PFCs). HBOCs are made by purifying and isolating hemoglobin from human or animal blood and then chemically modifying it to increase its stability and oxygen-carrying capacity. PFCs are synthetic compounds that can dissolve and transport oxygen, much like hemoglobin in human blood.
Why is Artificial Blood Not Currently Viable?
Despite years of research and development, artificial blood is not currently viable for use in humans. There are several reasons for this:
- Lack of Long-Term Safety Data
One of the main challenges with artificial blood is the lack of long-term safety data. While early clinical trials have shown promising results, there have been concerns about potential side effects, including increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clotting.
- Difficulty Regulating Oxygen Delivery
Another challenge with artificial blood is the difficulty in regulating oxygen delivery. Human blood has a sophisticated mechanism for regulating oxygen delivery to tissues and organs, which is not yet replicable in artificial blood. This means that artificial blood could potentially cause oxygen toxicity, leading to tissue damage and other adverse effects.
- Cost and Production Challenges
Producing artificial blood on a large scale is also challenging and expensive. Current methods require specialized equipment and highly trained personnel, which makes it difficult to produce and distribute artificial blood in large quantities.
- Lack of Efficacy Compared to Traditional Blood
Finally, artificial blood has not been shown to be as effective as traditional blood transfusions. Studies have shown that artificial blood products do not deliver oxygen as efficiently as human blood and may not provide the same benefits to patients.
- Short Shelf Life
Another challenge in developing artificial blood is ensuring that it has a long shelf life. Natural blood must be refrigerated and used within a certain time frame to prevent bacterial growth and other complications. Unfortunately, many synthetic blood products have a short shelf life, making them impractical for use in emergency situations.
- Potential for Side Effects
Like any medical intervention, synthetic blood products have the potential to cause side effects. Some researchers have expressed concern about the safety of artificial blood, particularly with regard to the potential for immune reactions and other adverse effects.
For the time being, it looks like we will still need to rely on the kindness of strangers to donate their time AND blood to help others!