UK breakthrough: Scientists set to revolutionise military medicine with new man-made blood
Published in Blood Substitutes.
The project – expected to be war-ready within the decade – will revolutionise military medicine and raise the survivability chances of seriously injured troops, It comes as the Ministry of Defence continues to learn lessons from the bloody seven-year Afghanistan campaign, in which around 2,600 soldiers – one in three of those injured – required transfusions to the tune 15,000 litres of blood.
Currently, injured soldiers are evacuated back to a main base where, after an assessment of blood type – there are eight – an urgent transfusion is delivered.
Traditionally O negative blood has been used for emergency transfusions. But its universality puts pressures on supplies for the NHS which is dependent on donors. Even when it is available, it can still be rejected by many body types.
It leaves medics tasked with the challenge of sourcing the correct blood type, which can often lead to fatal delays, while the challenges involved with storing all eight types at forward operating bases or in the evacuation helicopters at the correct temperature make finding a one-fits-all solution imperative.
Though Afghanistan’s Operation Herrick had sufficient air cover to enable soldiers to be evacuated to hospital by helicopter, the same cannot be said for the UN operation in Mali, to which the UK is currently contributing 350 troops.