Some researchers tinker with real blood; some create from scratch. Henrik Clausen and his colleagues at the University of
Twenty-five years ago, researchers identified an enzyme in coffee beans that could change type B to O, but the process was too inefficient for widespread use. What Clausen’s team has done is to identify two bacterial enzymes that can do the job—and do it a thousand times more effectively. Clinical trials evaluating the safety of enzyme-converted blood in humans are already under way, with initial results expected later this year.
But one day, if
The plastic product still needs to undergo biological testing, and the hemoglobin replacement polymer is not yet a total blood substitute, but it is a crucial first step. The substance can be stored as a dehydrated paste and then quickly reconstituted with water. “Soldiers could carry it with them, and then if they needed blood quickly, they could add water,” Twyman says. “A lot of people die from relatively minor injuries—they just bleed to death. This really has the potential to save lives.”
Organ donors may soon give way to organ printers, machines that build living transplantable organs one layer at a time, much as a dot matrix printer renders hard copy. A prototype device built by nScrypt, a company in
As a first application, a group headed by biophysicist Gabor Forgacs at the
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