Artificial blood

Published: Tuesday 28 February 1995

Two British genetic engineers have developed a blood substitute that could sustain the body for long periods on little oxygen. The inspiration for developing the artificial blood -- which could be useful in transfusions during heart and lung transplants -- came from the crocodile's ability to stay underwater up to an hour at a time.

Noburu Komiyama and Kiyoshi Nagai at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England, found that in crocodiles, the carbon dioxide released during breathing attaches to the haemoglobin, forcing it to release the oxygen into the tissues.

The scientists used the gene coding for this unusual characteristic of crocodile haemoglobin to develop the artificial blood, which is undergoing trials in the US.

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