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Assessment #3

Research Assessment: Blood Substitute

Name: Hebah Tanveer

Date: 09-28-2018

Subject: Independent Study and Mentorship

MLA Citation:

Grethlein, Sara J. “Blood Substitutes: Overview, Characteristics of an Ideal Blood Substitute,

Potential Uses.” ​Sickle Cell Anemia Differential Diagnoses,​ 30 Mar. 2017,

emedicine.medscape.com/article/207801-overview#showall.

“Can Humans Breathe Liquid?” ​YouTube,​ MAGNUM, 13 Jan. 2018,

www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdFEDpzxOnk.

Section 1: Introduction

As time goes on, it seems as if the field of bioengineering develops more and more

replacements for defective natural anatomies. Artificial organs, bone repairs, skin grafts:

everything has been done, or is in the process of being done, except for one thing. ​Blood​. As of

right now, blood is only available based on how much has been donated, and though scientists

have tried, a substitute for the liquid connective tissue has not been successfully developed.

Research on this conundrum has actually been going on for a while (the first article I found about

blood substitution was dated to 1982). So, why is creating a blood substitute so difficult?

Replacing the actual fluid isn’t hard, but finding a viable oxygen-carrier is rather puzzling.

Scientists research hemoglobin, the protein that is naturally found in red blood cells to bind and
carry oxygen; unfortunately, there is no luck. Another compound scientists look at would be

Perfluorocarbons, referred to as PFC’s for short. PFC’s are organic molecules in which all

hydrogen atoms are replaced with fluorine ones. According to a video about the use of PFC’s as

a liquid respiratory inhalant, unlike other gas carriers, PFC’s can dissolve ​both oxygen and

carbon dioxide, are colorless, and cannot damage lung tissue. The first part of this description,

the ability to dissolve both respiratory gases, directly applies to the hunt for a red blood cell

substitute. The substitution of red blood cells by PFC’s seems very promising.

Section 2: My Reaction

The video about “breathing under liquid” was something that I found rather fascinating.

PFC’s serve as an impressively viable substitute to ordinary air. They can dissolve more oxygen,

cannot be absorbed into the body (no risk of poisoning), and are incapable of harming lung

tissue. These characteristics were framed in the standards of scuba diving, as often times, finding

an oxygen-rich gas that is safe is difficult at the pressure exhibited at deep sea levels. Essentially,

it is possible to “breathe” this liquid for only so long, as it takes immense force to intake and

expel fluid from human lungs. If a blood substitute is developed, it cannot have many, if any,

cons. What does a model blood substitute look like? According to the article, an ideal blood

substitute would be unable of causing infection, as sometimes is seen with antigenicity from

blood transfusions. Furthermore, this dream substitute would have to be readily available, and

not easily expirable, in contrast with regular human blood. Lastly, the ideal substitute should be

easily stored, as currently, hospitals spend large amounts of resources are spent on temperature

regulated blood storage units.


Section 3: My Reflections

Discovering a substitute for blood would be phenomenal for the biomedical sectors of

trauma, surgery, social limitations, and organ preservation. First, trauma care would be

significantly enhanced if a blood substitute is readily available on demand, so that EMT’s have

to worry less about excessive blood loss and more about the patient’s wounds. Second, a blood

substitute could help with surgeries for the same reasons as previously presented. Third, patients

with religious convictions against using human-derived biological products would be able to

receive substituted transfusions. And lastly, donor organs can be preserved in an oxygen-rich,

low-maintenance environment, if stored with this blood substitute instead of actual human blood.

It seems wildly incredible that scientists are able to create artificial bones, joints, valves, and

even organs, but when it comes to blood, a seemingly simple body fluid, the task proves to be

impossible.

Section 4: Current Situation

Currently, blood is a scarcity in the medical world, but having a synthetic replacement would

eradicate the problem entirely. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration does not have a

viable “blood substitute” approved on the market as of right now. Many PFC compounds have

been developed and tested, but are largely ineffective and therefore unavailable. One PFC was

approved over ten years ago for a certain cardiovascular surgical procedure, but has since been

withdrawn due to adverse consequences, such as increased stroke risk. I am excited to see where

things go in the future, and because this article was edited in 2015, I am even more curious to see
what has been developed in these past three years. So far, it seems as if there is always one or

two drawbacks.