World Blood Donor Day
Today marks World Blood Donor day, where voluntary blood donors are thanked and awareness raised about the need for blood around the world.
Blood transfusions are now a routine procedure, but it has taken hundreds of years to get there. Sir Christopher Wren first demonstrated injections directly into the veins in 1657 by injecting wine and ale into a dog. Before long, blood transfusions were conducted between animals and even from animal to human; however it was rarely beneficial to either party. Over the centuries, the procedure became more and more refined, but it wasn’t until the early 1900s when scientists discovered the different blood types and how to store blood for several days that it became the life-saving technique it is today.
However we still have to rely on volunteer blood donations, which do not match the demand for blood worldwide. Scientists have been working towards developing new forms of ‘artificial’ blood including some made from modified cow haemoglobin or embryonic stem cells. Just this month, the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine was licensed to produce artificial blood for use in clinical trials. This and similar techniques have been developed and tested in mice before being translated to human use and have the potential to end the problem of blood shortages.
In the meantime though, the World Health Organisation is aiming to increase the number of voluntary donors worldwide. In the UK you can find out where to give blood here.
To find out more about how animal research has helped to develop blood transfusions and artificial blood, visit animalresearch.info