Hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body’s organs, has always been a key feature in artificial blood research. The first synthetic blood experiments took place in the 1950s, when pure hemoglobin was isolated from animal and human blood. Today, blood substitutes can be produced in batches of up to 10,000 liters. Various tests are conducted to ensure that they contain the appropriate amount of hemoglobin.
While the availability of natural blood may be abundant in some areas of the world, countries that lack the infrastructure to collect, store, and deliver it to patients face a number of challenges. People who have rare blood types may have trouble finding a match. In these instances, medical assistance becomes essential. This need for blood is even greater during war and in dangerous locations. World War II prompted military researchers to consider artificial blood, and civilian research followed suit. The quest for artificial blood has not abated since then.
Development of artificial blood could be the most viable solution to address the unmet needs among these patients. Continued investment in research and development is crucial for ensuring the commercial application of this technology, a very critical factor to contribute towards development of artificial blood market. Being a critical therapy for a severe life condition, the Artificial Blood Market is expected to get a product in a decade or so.
First generation artificial blood replacements are only effective for short-term use. The main drawbacks of these products are that they lack the enzymes that protect hemoglobin from oxidation. The problem of oxidation can cause reperfusion injuries. Hemoglobin replacement products cannot mimic the functions of blood, such as clotting and fighting diseases. Fortunately, researchers are working on ways to resolve this problem. Next generation artificial blood solutions should last longer and replicate the blood’s functions.
The development of artificial blood is largely dependent on the availability of natural blood. Aside from reducing the need for transfusions, this product has the added benefit of being safe for use in humans. It complements current blood products and creates a stable supply of effective products. Ultimately, the use of artificial blood is projected to significantly reduce blood transfusion requirements, particularly in trauma and surgery. Once developed, it may be possible to produce large quantities of blood containing all the necessary proteins and lipids.
Perfluorocarbons are the most common synthetic artificial blood products. These materials are inert to bacteria and other infectious substances. Since they are chemically inert, they are cheap to produce and can be used with minimal precautions. They are not completely biocompatible, however, and require the use of emulsifiers to prevent them from forming particles. However, the oxygen-carrying capacity of perfluorocarbons is lower than that of hemoglobin-based products. To reach this level of oxygen-carrying capacity, one would need to use a significantly larger quantity of perfluorocarbons.
Another method of replacing blood is engineered hemoglobin. This type of artificial blood could provide rich supplies of oxygen to tissues, and it would be virtually nontoxic. This method would make it easy for patients with blood-related conditions to function normally. A number of studies are ongoing, but no artificial blood has been approved by the FDA. One such solution is called a hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier. This new treatment could lead to a blood substitute in the near future.
Earlier, researchers had tried substituting human blood with animal plasma or hemoglobin. However, the approach was hampered by technological challenges, such as the difficulty of isolating large volumes of hemoglobin. Animal products also contain toxins. Artificial blood is more stable than human blood, eliminating the need to worry about its shelf life. Some products even have a longer shelf life than human blood.