How is it possible that cold-blooded fish such as cod can live in Arctic waters without just freezing solid? As it turns out, they've got proteins in their bloodstream that act as a sort of antifreeze. British scientists have now copied the fashion in which those proteins work, to create a process by which donated human blood could be frozen for storage, then quickly made available for transfusion.
Although it is already possible to store blood cryogenically, it requires the addition of an organic solvent in as high as a 1:1 ratio, before the freezing occurs. What's more, that solvent must be removed from the blood once thawed, in a process that can take up to several days. In emergencies, there typically aren't several days to spare.
As an alternative to such solvents, researchers at the University of Warwick are instead looking to polyvinyl alcohol. The synthetic polymer functions like the cod's antifreeze, and is derived from wood glue.
Like the solvents, it keeps cell-rupturing ice crystals from forming as the blood thaws. Unlike the solvents, however, it can stay in the blood without causing any harm. This means that as soon as the blood is thawed, it's ready to go.
Additionally, less of it is required – about 0.1 percent of the volume of the blood.
The university is now working on commercializing the technology, which could conceivably also find use in cell-based therapies and research projects. A paper on the scientists' findings was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
Source: University of Warwick
Want a cleaner, faster loading and ad free reading experience?
Try New Atlas Plus. Learn more