While we like to focus on highly practical solutions that improve maternal survival, we are also interested in solutions still in research and development. Artificial or synthetic blood is one such invention that could change everything. There are several reasons why a woman might need a blood transfusion-chief among them severe anemia or blood loss due to postpartum hemorrhage. Right now, a blood transfusion requires a blood banking system, something that is difficult for many lower-level health facilities. What's more, an enormous number of the transfusions in lower-resource settings are not tested for HIV and Hepatitis. Women are brought in on stretchers, in buses and in cars to facilities where it is often impossible to save them because blood is not available. Story after story is told of husbands and family members rushing around looking for a blood donor. How different could it be if stores of synthetic blood were available?
This is not a science fiction fantasy. Research on synthetic or articifical blood has been Pher-O2, Biopure Corporation, Northfield Laboratories, Inc. and Synthetic Blood International are examples of companies pursuing what is estimated to be a $7 billion market in the U.S. alone. Sanguine is already selling its product, Pher-O2 for pre-clinical use. Scientists in the UK at University of Essex and University of Sheffield are also working on blood-related products including engineered hemoglobin. Biopure's product is already being used for anemic patients in South Africa. Though clinical trials for most of these products indicate that a viable, inexpensive product for lower-income settings is years away, a look at the future for women might be incomplete without contemplating this revolutionary way to restore life.
Thanks to Anant Kumar of LifeSpring for alerting me to this scientific development.