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Inside US military’s $46 million bet to develop ultimate blood substitute – Times of India

WorldInside US military's $46 million bet to develop ultimate blood substitute - Times of India

In an ambitious effort to enhance battlefield medicine, the US military is investing $46 million in the development of a synthetic blood substitute. This initiative aims to provide a reliable and efficient alternative to human blood, crucial for saving lives in combat situations.
The Department of Defense is leading this initiative to tackle the challenges of maintaining a consistent blood supply in combat zones.Traditional blood supply chains often face disruptions, leading to shortages that can be life-threatening for injured soldiers.
As per a report in the Science, the project seeks to develop a synthetic alternative capable of performing the vital functions of human blood, such as oxygen transportation and nutrient delivery. A key goal is to create a universally compatible product, eliminating the need for blood typing and cross-matching.
Introducing ErythroMer
The US military is investing $46 million to develop an artificial whole blood substitute called ErythroMer, created by the company KaloCyte. This product is intended to serve as a field-deployable, shelf-stable alternative to donated blood for trauma patients when regular blood products are unavailable.
Key features of ErythroMer
Oxygen delivery: ErythroMer is designed to effectively deliver oxygen to tissues, a critical function of natural red blood cells. The nanoparticle design allows it to release oxygen where it is needed most, such as at the site of bleeding in trauma patients.
Bleeding control: The product will also aim to help stop bleeding, another vital role of whole blood in resuscitation. The polymer shell regulates oxygen release and prevents adverse interactions that could lead to vessel narrowing and limited blood flow.
Volume replacement: In addition, ErythroMer will work to replace lost blood volume in trauma patients.
Research and development
The research team, led by Dr Allan Doctor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, will spend the next four years integrating various bio-artificial and synthetic components to create this comprehensive blood substitute. They will also focus on developing manufacturing and stabilization methods to make the product shelf-stable for extended periods without refrigeration.
ErythroMer vs traditional blood
Effectiveness: Preclinical data demonstrated effective oxygen delivery in mice that had 70% of their blood volume replaced with ErythroMer.
Shelf-Stability: Unlike donated blood, which expires after 42 days refrigerated, ErythroMer can be stored at ambient temperatures for extended periods, potentially months. This provides significant logistical advantages for use in remote or austere environments.
Universal Compatibility: ErythroMer does not require blood typing or cross-matching, avoiding time-consuming procedures in emergencies. It can be given to people regardless of their blood type.
How does ErythroMer compare to previous hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs)
Previous HBOCs often failed due to toxicity issues, primarily caused by free hemoglobin in the bloodstream leading to severe side effects. ErythroMer aims to circumvent these issues by encapsulating hemoglobin within a synthetic membrane. Doctor believes that “the problems with the old HBOCs were that they were free in plasma and that we needed to find a way to sheath [the hemoglobin].”
What are the main challenges in developing a blood substitute?
Imitating the complex functions of natural blood is extremely challenging. Hemoglobin, while an effective oxygen carrier, can be toxic if not properly contained. Previous attempts to develop blood substitutes have faced significant setbacks due to these complexities, leading to severe side effects and limited success.
Potential benefits
The synthetic blood substitute offers numerous advantages. It would have a longer shelf life than human blood, reducing waste due to expiration. Furthermore, it could be stored under various conditions, increasing its versatility for use in different environments.

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