The blood shortage and the quest for artificial blood | DW Documentary

Five to seven liters of blood flow through a human being’s veins. There are eight billion people on Earth. You’d think there’d be enough to go around for transfusions, for example, but blood is always in short supply. So how about we make some?

Over the course of their lifetime, two out of three people will need a blood transfusion. Manufacturing artificial blood would solve several problems at once: address the blood shortage issue, minimize the risk of disease transmission and provide sufficient blood for all blood groups, including the rarest.
But we’ve already been here once before, at a point where we thought we’d found the Holy Grail. That was in the 1960s. A time when all over the world, people believed a chemical substance -perfluorocarbons – was the key to meeting the global demand for blood. It was thought that before long, artificial blood would be available in every hospital. But in the end, things turned out to be much more complex.
“Every blood cell has its own, crucial function. It’s practically impossible to try and replace all of it at once,” explains immuno-biologist Romy Kronstein-Wiedemann from Dresden’s Technical University. That’s why scientists have been attempting to copy individual elements of our blood, for example the platelets that are so important in the formation of clots.
“The body is the best bioreactor,” says molecular biologist Constanca Ferreira de Figueiredo. That’s why the platelets’ precursor cells that she’s designed continue to develop in the body. Researchers in Dresden are creating red blood cells in the lab. In France, a super-efficient oxygen carrier has been found in the mudflats: a worm. If we’re hoping to substitute just a part of our blood at least, could this creature be the answer?

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