Is this the future of medicine? Synthetic blood could buy patients 48 extra hours

Finding blood donors continues to present a challenge across the United States, with hospitals and medical professionals often citing a blood shortage in areas of the country. And while there’s no doubt that we still need folks to visit their local blood drives with hopes of saving a life with their donation, science has stepped in with a new temporary solution. Two scientists — Dr. Andre Palmer of the Ohio State University and Dr. Dipanjan Pan, an associate professor in the department of bioengineering at the University of Illinois — have now independently developed two synthetic blood technologies.

Dr. Pan’s product is called ErythroMer, and while it is not, in fact, a blood substitute, it is an “oxygen carrier that can be given as an oxygen-delivery vehicle that can kind of act as a stop-gap measure to keep the injured alive until they get to the hospital,” Pan told Engadget. Essentially, ErythroMer is a manmade hemoglobin — the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen to various parts of the body. Because ErythroMer is produced in powder form, it’s capable of being stored for up to six months, which is significantly longer than the shelf life of actual human blood — even when it’s stored properly on ice it can only last up to 42 days. Moreover, because this hemoglobin molecule is artificial, there is a reduced risk of transferring blood-borne diseases like HIV or Zika during transfusions.

As it stands, Pan and his colleagues are hoping to use ErythroMer in military applications, though if successful, the synthetic  blood could doubtless be used in civilian operations as well. Excitingly, NASA has already expressed interest in the synthetic blood, as it may come in handy as astronauts are sent to planets beyond our own.

Meanwhile, Dr. Palmer has created a polymerized hemoglobin, or PolyHb, that is quite similar to Erythromer. It is also based on natural hemoglobin, then encased in a polymer, and is meant “to give the patient enough time to get to a hospital to get a blood transfusion because ultimately, if you lose blood, the best thing you can be transfused with is blood,” as Palmer noted. Again, like Erythromer, PolyHb can be delivered in powdered form, which cuts down on its weight and mass by 50 percent.

This is important as it means that PolyHb is particularly portable, which could be hugely important when treating wounded soldiers on battlefields, or patients in difficult to access areas. All PolyHb needs to be reconstituted is some purified water — then, the powdered platelets can be transfused as needed. PolyHb buys patients up to 48 hours of extra time, which could be the difference between life or death in many medical situations.

While all of these advances are certainly met with excitement by the medical community, there are, of course, still shortcomings. Currently, neither ErythroMer nor PolyHb can do more than transport oxygen — while this is a major function of blood, it’s not the only function, which means  that you couldn’t replace your entire bloodstream with these synthetic solutions.

As Palmer told Engadget, “You’d have the oxygen-carrying therapeutic, and then you’d have something that initiates clotting, for example. So it is possible to mix two different therapeutics together to achieve extra functions.” We’re just waiting on that possibility to become a reality.

Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Home Theater

Our quick-and-easy guide to programming an RCA universal remote

If you're tired of using a million different remotes in your home theater, office, or living room, you'll likely be interested in a single RCA universal remote. Here's how to program it for your system.

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has a new job as a communication relay for Mars 2020

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has been collecting atmospheric readings but now is taking on a new job as a data relay satellite for the Mars 2020 mission that launches next year.
Emerging Tech

Underground volcanoes could explain possible liquid water on Mars

Last year scientists discovered there could be liquid water on Mars. Now a research team argues that for there to be liquid water, there must be an underground source of heat -- and they believe underground volcanoes could be responsible.
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Emerging Tech

A river of stars one billion years old flows across the southern sky

Astronomers have identified a river of stars flowing across our galaxy and covering most of the southern sky. The estimated 4000 stars that comprise the stream were born together and have been moving together for the last one billion years.
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.