Longer life for blood

1 min read

Harvard research team has discovered a technique that could revolutionize transfusions

Blood platelets, which are transfused into those who lose too much blood from wounds, major surgery, or cancer treatments, can be kept for only five days. Then they must be discarded, a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Refrigeration can extend the shelf life to about a month, but when this cold blood is put into a body, the platelets disappear almost instantly. A team of Harvard Medical School researchers, working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has discovered why cold blood doesn’t work, and has used that knowledge to get it working. The resulting technology promises to generate a new force for saving lives all over the world. “If further development is successful, this technology could have a major impact on platelet transfusion therapy by simplifying blood storage, prolonging storage time, solving problems for maintaining platelet supplies for transfusion, improving platelet quality, and contributing to platelet safety,” says Harvard Professor Thomas Stossel. The team discovered that the problem is a platelet receptor. Adding a sugar to chilled blood solves it. The breakthrough was the cover story of the Sept. 12, 2003, issue of Science.