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Blood substitute repairs damaged organs hours after heart stops

Published in Blood Substitutes.

Use of an artificial blood substitute can reverse cell damage caused by lack of oxygen and could make more organs available for transplants, treat heart attacks and strokes and even reverse death.

A procedure that reverses cell damage after the heart has stopped pumping blood may lead to more organ transplants and better treatments for heart attacks and strokes, and one day could even save the lives of people who would currently be considered dead.

The method, which so far has been tested on pigs, involves connecting an animal to a pump that perfuses their bodies with an artificial blood substitute containing oxygen and a mixture of other chemicals to prevent cell death and promote repair processes.

“We have shown that cells don’t die as quickly as we assumed they do, which opens up possibilities for intervention. We can persuade cells not to die,” says Zvonimir Vrselja at Yale School of Medicine.

Currently, people whose hearts are failing may be connected to heart-lung machines, which oxygenate their blood, remove carbon dioxide from it and pump it around the body.