True Blood Inspired :Scientists develop ‘fake’ genetically-engineered blood for use on the battlefield

In the TV series True Blood, vampires are kept satiated without the need to bite humans by a plentiful supply of artificial blood.
Now scientists in the U.S have produced the first batch of synthetic blood which could soon be used by soldiers on the battlefields of Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s experimental arm, Darpa, launched the ‘Blood Pharming’ programme in 2008 with the intention of developing synthetic blood to be used to treat wounded soldiers.

U.S. soldiers carry a wounded soldier in Iraq. The breakthrough could help provide enough blood for battlefield transfusions
The firm Arteriocyte, which received $1.95 million for the project, has now sent off its first shipment of O-negative blood to the food and drugs watchdog in the US, the FDA.
The blood is made by using hematopoietic cells taken from umbilical cords in a process called ‘pharming’ – using genetically engineered plants or animals to create mass quantities of useful substances.
One umbilical cord can be turned into around 20 units of usable blood. A wounded soldier in the field will require an average of six units during treatment.
Blood cells produced using this method are ‘functionally indistinguishable from red blood cells in healthy circulation’, the company claims.
‘We’re basically mimicking bone marrow in a lab environment,’ Arteriocyte boss Don Brown told Wired magazine.
‘Our model works, but we need to extrapolate our production abilities to make scale.’
If approved it could revolutionise battlefields where a shortage of blood donors can hamper treatment of wounded soldiers.
The process of giving transfusions in war zones is also made more difficult because donated blood has to be transported long distance before it reaches the field hospitals where it is urgently needed.
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Darpa launched a search for a renewable blood supply in 2008
Some blood is already 21 days old before it reaches patients, meaning it only has around a week-long shelf-life before it must be discarded. There are increased risks of infection or organ failure if blood is too old.
Mr Brown said: ‘Until now, the military’s strategy has mainly been contained to basically using stale blood,’
‘And they’ll set up mobile blood banks in a war zone, but even every troop rolling up their sleeve might not be enough when you’ve got a crisis with dozens or more injuries.’
Human trials aren’t likely until 2013, but the firm predicts the ‘pharmed’ blood could be used by the military within five years if the Pentagon calls for it sooner.

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