The shortage of blood donors in the United States frequently puts major hospitals and patients at serious risk. Each donated component of blood (blood plasma, red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells) have different levels of perishability, hospitals are continuously monitored to balance the shelf lie of the blood product with uncertain demand. Blood shortages mean that hospitals may be temporarily unable to perform major surgeries and transfusions, potentially jeopardizing patient lives.
Physicians have long used things like saline as volume expander (used to stabilize blood pressure) during emergency situations. While they may save a patient’s life by ensuring that the heart doesn’t give out due to low blood pressure, volume expander don’t do any of the other jobs that real blood does, such as providing oxygen and nutrition to the body’s tissues and transporting white blood cells that help to fight infection. In response, some medical researchers have developed oxygen therapeutics, which supply oxygen to the body’s tissues in a similar manner to real human blood. These substances can save a patient’s life in the event of a blood shortage, but like volume extenders, oxygen therapeutics are unable to function as complete blood substitutes.
Beyond oxygen therapeutics, Romanian medical researcher Dr. Radu Silaghi-Dumitrescu and his research team have created artificial blood from hemerythrin (a protein from sea worms) as well as water and salts. Dr. Silaghi- Dumitrescu has found that the hemerythrin-based artificial blood withstands the stress of transfusion in mice and will soon be prompting authorities for human trials. With such a solution, Dr. Silaghi has said, it will also be possible to create “instant blood” (that is, blood that has been dehydrated and can be reconstituted with water and additional salts). This possibility has tremendous applications for the medical community that is expected to maintain blood supplies based on a highly fluctuating supply of blood donors. Routine blood work should be done regualrly
Even with these advancements, continued federal revenue for medical research is absolutely essential. The Affordable Care Act of 2010, famous for its health insurance mandates to corporations and individuals alike, has been attacked for hindering US medical research by disproportionately affecting small business owners (who typically operate with much smaller profit margins than large corporations) through increased taxes. Though the Affordable Care Act has established a massive online marketplace of public health insurance coverage plans, it remains to be seen whether the higher taxes on small business owners will negatively impact long-term medical research to the extent that some critics have forecasted.