Attrition: Artificial Blood For Combat Emergencies

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July 17, 2010: The U.S. has finally developed artificial blood. It is grown from umbilical cord cells and genetically modified animal cells. It won�t be available for use for another five years (lots of testing and production optimization required), and will cost about $1,000 a pint (450 millileters). That�s about three times the cost of collecting and processing blood from human donors. But the higher cost is offset by lower waste and the ability to create larger supplies on demand.

While some blood is donated by troops in the combat zone, most of it is sent over from the U.S. or other areas with lots of healthy donors. Whole blood only has a shelf life of four weeks, and a lot of it has to be destroyed because it is not needed. That�s because a lot of blood has to be available in a combat zone, at all times, to deal with spikes in casualties. These spikes are unavoidable, and often unpredictable, given the nature of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Combat casualties often involve massive loss of blood, and you have to have the blood for transfusions when you need it. The artificial blood will make it possible to maintain combat reserves without putting a strain on the civilian supply.

 

 


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