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Sea worms could hold key to artificial blood for injured humans

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 02:32

Nov. 12 - Romanian scientists say they may be on a path to developing a safe and reliable type of artificial blood that could save lives of people with severe blood loss. Researchers have for years, been trying to develop an artificial haemoglobin to carry oxygen through the body but the Romanian team says experiments with a substance called hemerythrin, derived from sea worms, is showing greater potential. Sharon Reich reports.

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EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL With demand for blood far exceeding supply around the world, scientists have long sought an artificial blood product that can keep people alive after trauma involving profuse bleeding. Romanian researchers say they've developed a blood subsitute, that shows great promise in mice and could be just as effective on humans. Its essential ingredient is hemerythrin, a protein extracted from sea worms and bacteria. Until now most lines of research have focused on haemoglobin substitutes to replicate the oxygen-carrying properties of haemoglobin that occurs naturally in the body. But the research is controversial, because of the potential toxicity of the substitutes after they interact with other chemicals in the blood. Professor Radu Silaghi-Dumitrescu and his team at Babes-Bolyai university however, say their hemerythrin-based substance - when tested on mice - has so far shown no such side-effects. . SOUNDBITE (Romanian) PROFESSOR AT BABES-BOLYAI UNIVERSITY, RADU SILAGHI-DUMITRESCU, SAYING: "It is much more resistant to chemical stress agents in our blood. These agents destroy haemoglobin in a matter of seconds, even milliseconds; hemerythrin remains unchanged for minutes, even hours." The artificial blood is made up of a mix of hemerythrin, water and salts. Instead of the deep red colour normally associated with blood, it forms a slightly translucent yellow. The team believes their discovery could be revolutionary, as it demonstrates that a protein responsible for transporting oxygen in invertebrates like sea worms, can also be used effectively in vertabrates like mice. And ... in addition to proving more resistant to chemical stress agents in blood, hemerythrin also has a longer shelf life. SOUNDBITE (Romanian) PROFESSOR AT BABES-BOLYAI UNIVERSITY, RADU SILAGHI-DUMITRESCU, SAYING: "If human blood can stay in a hospital fridge for a month, and after that it is considered expired, than this (hemerythrin) can be deposited as any laboratory substance for almost an unlimited time. We don't need a refrigerator, meaning that we can put it in a bag and go away for a trip. When required, by dissolving it in sterile water we can have 'instant' blood." The team say their "instant blood" might one day be used in hospitals to treat trauma victims or on the battlefield to help keep wounded soldiers alive as they're transported to hospitals. They plan to continue their tests on mice, and hope to conduct clinical trials on humans within two years.

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Sea worms could hold key to artificial blood for injured humans

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 02:32

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