The “elixir that gives life”: Artificial blood
Giulianna Travi

Assistant of the Laboratory of Tissue Engineering and Synthetic Biology

Bringing the dead back to life has fascinated not only writers and playwrights over the centuries, but also scientists. As in many past references, the perfect preservation of the integrity of the human body after death is part of that ideal. In today’s world, many of these aspirations focus on preserving donor organs for longer, so that they can be transplanted.

The process to get a donated organ has many complications, from getting those that are compatible, which are scarce (for example, in Latin America the range of donors in 2019 was 2.3 to 21.4 organ donors per million people); collect the organ and implant it in the patient, and wait for it to function properly. To this must be added the one that not always the patient and the donor coincide at the same time and place. The organ, once harvested from the donor, does not have a very long life time, that is why specialists must act quickly. Currently there are already equipment capable of prolonging the life of these collected organs, as is the case with EMCO machines, but not for long and without being able to prevent some alterations to the tissues.

Faced with this problem, scientists at Yale University have created a blood-like cocktail. This fluid has the ability to provide oxygen to tissues and partially restore cellular activity in various organs, such as the heart, brain and kidney. This cocktail consists of blood from the animal used for the experiment -in this case sows were used (Sus scrofa domesticus, 30-35 kg)- in addition to approved drugs that can reduce inflammation, prevent the formation of clots and minimize cell death.

Images comparing control electrocardiogram signals and tissue stainings (left) to those of the experimental group.<br><br>” src=”https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/yl_krreWNP3OUS-Hesy2Zyk9x-WSWaL-C7MOJ9YnmXaQEsWb8vNvg9w4Cd2c77s25xn2SGpFBluIdjD1nUZEY-C717Aa0GQ-uf4ZEKQaM5i61oEVbTWsSdmSKZwUhYOLcX9IixH7sBsfth0zoAiaxw”></p>



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<p><strong>Image 1:</strong> Representative images of electrocardiogram plots in the heart (above), immunostains for albumin in the liver (center) and actin in the kidney (below). The images on the left side represent the organs subjected to a control perfusion, while the images on the right represent the organs subjected to experimental perfusion. Source : DAVID ANDRIJEVIC, ZVONIMIR VRSELJA, TARAS LYSYY, SHUPEI ZHANG; SESTAN LABORATORY; YALE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE. The scientist. Andy Carstens</p>



<p>This artificial blood was compared to the perfusion of EMCO machines with promising results. Pigs that had this cocktail showed better tissue oxygenation and more effective fluid circulation throughout the body, compared to pigs connected to ECMO. The pigs in the experimental group showed electrical activity and contractions in the heart, while those in the EMCO group had none.<br>In addition, the experimental group showed more metabolic activity compared to those of the EMCO group.</p>



<p>The artificial blood or cocktail that we have described, is part of a larger project called Organ EX, a device capable of preserving the life of various organs. This machine can be used after one hour of the death of the animal or while it is in the state known as warm ischemia, that is, the organs are inside the animal and maintain the body temperature. Using this device can maintain proper oxygenation and function of major organs such as brain, pancreas, lungs and kidneys</p>



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Image 2: Overview of OrganEx technology and experimental workflow. a, Connection of the pig body to the OrganEx perfusion system (or ECMO, not shown) through cannulation of the femoral artery and vein. b, Simplified schematic of the OrganEx perfusion device. The system is equipped with centrifugal pump, pulse generator, hemodiafiltration, gas infusion, drug delivery systems and sensors to measure metabolic and circulatory parameters. c, Schematic workflow and experimental conditions. VF, ventricular fibrillation.Source: Cellular recovery after prolonged warm ischaemia of the whole body. Nature 608

What has been achieved in the research of these scientists provides a promising picture in the arduous process of obtaining a functional organ for transplantation.
It must be recognized that, although the results of these experiments are encouraging, science still has a long way to go; but the aim is to enhance this technology and, in the not too distant future, test it on patients.

References

Organ donations and transplants in Latin America – statistics & facts.

Andrijevic, D., Vrselja, Z., Lysyy, T. et al. Cellular recovery after prolonged warm ischaemia of the whole body. Nature 608, 405–412 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05016-1

Andy Carstens. Artificial Blood Breathes New Life Into Dead Pigs’ Cells. The scientist.  3 de Agosto 2022.

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