Artificial Blood: An Update on Current Red Cell and Platelet Substitutes.
To begin, it should be clarified that the term “artificial blood” is really a misnomer. The complexity of blood is far too great to allow for absolute duplication in a laboratory. Instead, researchers have focused their efforts on creating artificial substitutes for 2 important functions of blood: oxygen transport by red blood cells and hemostasis by platelets. A number of driving forces have led to the development of artificial blood substitutes (1). One major force is the military, which requires a large volume of blood products that can be easily stored and readily shipped to the site of casualties. Another force is HIV; with the advent of this virus, the medical community and the public suddenly became aware of the significance of transfusion-transmitted diseases and became concerned about the safety of the national blood supply. A third force is the growing shortage of blood donors. Approximately 60% of the population is eligible to donate blood, but fewer than 5% are regular blood donors (2). A unit of blood is transfused every 3 seconds in the USA, and the number of units transfused each year has been increasing at twice the rate of donor collection.