Magazine article USA TODAY

Blood Substitute Offers Advantages

Magazine article USA TODAY

Blood Substitute Offers Advantages

Article excerpt

Blood donated for transfusions has several drawbacks: it must be used within five or six weeks, might carry viruses such as HIV, and only can be given to patients with a compatible blood type. These and other problems result in periodic blood shortages. However, a red blood cell substitute without these flaws is going into human safety/efficacy trials early in 1996 and, if all goes well, could be available on the market by 1999.

An average adult has about five quarts of blood, encompassing a complex mixture of red and white cells, plasma, and platelets. The red cells contain the oxygen-carrying molecule hemoglobin, which lies at the heart of the blood substitute being developed by Hemosol Inc., based in Etobicoke, Ont., Canada. Called Hemolink, it is made of chemically modified hemoglobin, derived from screened and tested blood that is outdated because it has been stored for more than six weeks.

The process takes the expired blood, separates out the red blood cells, and extracts the hemoglobin. That is more complicated than it sounds. "A red cell is not just a package of clean hemoglobin," notes Gord Adamson, a Hemosol scientist. "It contains about 90 different proteins." The company heats the hemoglobin to destroy any contaminating viruses that may have eluded the screening process conducted by collection agencies. Other remaining proteins are removed by a displacement chromatographic process that strips away blood-group antigens and other proteins, so Hemolink can be used by all patients regardless of blood type. …

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