Romanian Scientists Create Artificial Blood
“I do not drink… wine.”
– Count Vlad Dracula
And thanks to research by his modern-day countrymen, the good count won’t have to feed on the precious vino of his victims, either. Romanian researchers have formulated artificial blood: a substance that can accomplish all of the classic capabilities of real blood. There have been successful tests using the “new” blood in mice, and it is thought that clinical trials on humans might be, at most, two years away.
If the work by Dr. Radu Silaghi-Dumitrescu and his team at Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, bears out, then there may at last be a solution to the problem of blood shortages. Their artificial blood could conceivably be given to nearly any person: the ultimate “universal donor.” Just as incredible, their “alternative blood” could possibly be delivered in powdered form for reconstitution with water on-site, either at a hospital or at the scene of an accident.
(If “instant drink mix for vampires” comes to mind, you are not alone.)
Artificial blood has been theorized before, but has never been experimentally proven to be a success. The problem is hemoglobin: the central element of blood in humans and most other vertebrate animals. Hemoglobin is what oxygen binds to for delivery to cells throughout the body. Without hemoglobin, blood is merely a pool of useless cellular mass and lots of water. But hemoglobin has proven to be a physically fragile substance: one unable to handle the stress of mechanical and chemical manipulation.
Enter Dr. Silaghi-Dumitrescu and his colleagues. They cleverly switched hemoglobin out and in its place used hemerythrin— the central protein of the blood of certain deep-sea worms. Unlike hemoglobin, hemerythrin is much more robust and stable, and capable of holding up under physical and chemical stresses. It is also just as adept at binding, transporting and releasing oxygen molecules as needed.
Dr. Silaghi-Dumitrescu and his fellow researchers created the “blood” to mimic all the proportions of mouse blood and its constituent water and salts, with the addition of hemerythrin. The manufactured blood was introduced into mice, whose bodies circulated and metabolized the manufactured blood as if it were their own natural blood. The mice suffered no recognizable adverse effects. So enthused by the results of this initial experiment, it is believed human experimentation is a very short leap away.
The work is being hailed as a remarkable breakthrough, one that could revolutionize the entire realm of medicine. The implications are staggering; the neighborhood blood drive could well become obsolete. As would any concern about blood-borne pathogens that could potentially be transmitted through cross-contamination. The Romanian “blood” is so stable in fact, that it could conceivably be stored in bulk in solid form and used as needed; no more need for refrigerated blood banks.
And, vampires throughout the world are no doubt rejoicing! Dracula, Lestat* and all their friends can keep toasting their own good health, and the rest of us will be none the wiser.
*Edward Cullen and his clan do not qualify as they are not real vampires.