This year, 4.5 million people will need a blood transfusion amid a dire shortage, as supplies have failed to reach pre-pandemic levels.
One pint of blood can save up to three lives. Only 37% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, but less than 10% actually donate.
A fifth of blood centers nationwide have less than a day’s supply of blood, and according to America’s Blood Center, 29% have just enough to last two days. That’s why researchers are now working on ways to create blood in the lab.
Susan Shea, a bioengineer at the University of Pittsburg, said the holy grail for transfusion is a dried artificial whole blood. She is on the team of those working to make synthetic blood a reality.
It looks like a powder and has the same components as human blood.
“This product that we’re developing will consist of a nanoparticle that is able to perform the function of a red blood cell, so it can deliver oxygen,” Shea said.
Synthetic blood also does not have to match the patient’s blood type.
“The cellular components are artificial, and they, therefore, will not express those markers that recipients might have an adverse reaction to as they would if they received a type of mismatched blood donation,” Shea said.
And unlike donated blood, with a shelf life of 42 days, ideally, synthetic blood could last months and even years.
It does not need to be refrigerated, so it can be used in hospitals, ambulances, rescue helicopters and war zones.
“I don’t know that we can guarantee that this product alone will eliminate the blood shortage, but it’s certainly a very important step forward,” Shea said.
If you are a healthy adult older than 17, weighing at least 110 pounds, you can donate.