Are Hemoglobin Blood Substitutes Coming To The End Of The Road?

Blood substitutes have been part of artificial organ research for a number of years.  They came in many forms.  Some of the early blood substitutes were fluorocarbon based.  Many were hemoglobin based as are all of the major contenders today.  I started working on blood substitutes around 1978 at Michael Reese as a Research Assistant working with Dr. Moss’ group.  Dr. Moss went on to create Northfield Corporation.  We parted company when he decided not to support liposome encapsulated hemoglobin research in his lab.  I continued to work on LEH for my dissertation at Rush Presbyterian St. Lukes Medical Center under the auspices of the Department of Anesthesiology.   I created a more commercially viable production technique and performed a number of experiments on rabbits, and rats to prove its efficacy.  Baxter supported the research and ultimately modified the process I created.  They were not unfortunately able to commercialize it for a number of reasons.  Besides technical issues the chief reason was the discovery of HIV.  There were no reliable tests at the time and my impression is that the risks were deemed to high to proceed.

In restrospect LEH blood substitutes could be considered one of the early pioneering attempts to develop biologically based pharmaceuticals.   It involved separation of the cytosol from the cell membrane by a series of chemical, centrifugation and cross flow filtration techniques.  Before it was encapsulated the hemoglobin rich cytosol was augmented with nutrients and cofactors to extend its shelf and circulating life.

Now it appears that hemoglobin based blood substitutes are at a cross roads.  With the advent of adult stem cell research and hobbled by a number of negative trials this approach appears to be headed for the history books.

Blood Not So Simple: Controversial Hemoglobin Substitutes on Life Support

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