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Freeze-Dried Blood May Save Soldiers' Lives 140

Posted by timothy
from the we've-mixed-blood-into-this-man's-coffee dept.
SpaceAdmiral writes "An Israeli company is working on a method to freeze-dry blood. This would enable soldiers to carry a packet of their own blood on the battlefield. If a soldier is injured and needs blood, medics could mix the dried blood with water and give the soldier a transfusion of his or her own blood. From the article: 'The idea is to take a soldier's blood, freeze it in laboratory conditions, take out the ice crystals leaving only the blood components. It will look like freeze-dried coffee in a little bag.'"
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Freeze-Dried Blood May Save Soldiers' Lives

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  • Two technologies (Score:5, Informative)

    by andrewman327 (635952) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @12:27PM (#15792429) Homepage Journal
    Polyheme [northfieldlabs.com] is an artificial blood that is in the final stages of field testing in the USA. Taken together, these two technologies promise to significantly reduce deaths caused by trauma on the battlefields and highways.
    • Re:Two technologies (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @12:52PM (#15792714) Journal
      Polyheme also happens to be the stuff that they tested on accident victims without consent .

      They used it in ambulances under some exception to the general rule requiring informed consent for clinical trials.

      You can read more about it by poking around Google
      http://www.google.com/search?q=polyheme+consent [google.com]
      There was a big ethical brouhaha when the testing made the papers.

      So, when you say "final stages of field testing" you really mean
      "used on accident victims without their permission."
      • by theelectron (973857)
        So, if you were passed out from a heart attack and couldn't give anyone 'consent' and an EMS rolls up with paramedics who are certified in CPR they wouldn't be saving the person's life, they would be "using CPR on a victim without their permission"?
        • by jnik (1733)
          Implied consent means that if you're so incapacitated you can't refuse treatment, a trained individual may treat you according to training. That's a little different from trials of an unapproved substance--to extend your analogy, it's closer to rolling up with a class of EMT's-in-training.
          • Re:Two technologies (Score:3, Informative)

            by andrewman327 (635952)
            "it's closer to rolling up with a class of EMT's-in-training"


            That's called rotations, and the students at my school all have to do them at different times. Believe it or not you may have an EMT in training assisting the full timers in patient care next time you call an ambulance.

            • That's called rotations, and the students at my school all have to do them at different times. Believe it or not you may have an EMT in training assisting the full timers in patient care next time you call an ambulance.

              I think what the PP was saying was that it was like having only EMTs in training showing up, which would be considerably more dangerous.

              • I do understand that, but informed consent does apply in these trials. I do not see why this is such a big deal; there was a device that did not work in field trials and was pulled. That device should be the one under fire, not this wonderful liquid.
                • Obviously though you don't understand the base issue. How wonderful the liquid is... that's not even being discussed here. What's being discussed is the trial. If, as has been alleged, they continued to administer the artificial blood without patient consent at the point at which they reached the hospital, when real blood was available, then they can no longer hide behind implied consent. (I don't know where you get "informed consent", you can't be informed of shit while you're unconscious.) The fact [?] th
                  • If you read the literature on Polyheme, it is also designed for use in hospitals. Even though human blood transfusions may have been available, it makes sense that the trials would require it to be used in a hospital setting.


                    As a student of Emergency Health Services, most of my knowledge stops in the ambulance receiving bay. Aside from ER rotations, I have no firsthand experience in a hospital.

                    • If you read the literature on Polyheme, it is also designed for use in hospitals. Even though human blood transfusions may have been available, it makes sense that the trials would require it to be used in a hospital setting.

                      That is utterly irrelevant. My point was that there is a valid reason to administer the stuff in the ambulance, where you don't have stocks of blood. However, while you can provide treatment without explicit consent if a patient is not in a position to give it, or to make a rational

                    • First off, I could simply cite Godwin's Law and declare victory, but instead I will answer all of your allegations.

                      Let's get something straight: even in the ambulance this is a trial. It is a trial after the medication has been proved safe, but it still counts as a trial. There is an alternative in the ambulance: saline! That alternative is used in almost all Advanced Life Support vehicles in the country. Also, when the medics unload their patient there is a doctor making the choice of treatment. He h

                    • Are you absolutely sure that they even started fresh lines of Polyheme at the hospital? To me it seems like they may have just let the bag run out that had been attached en route.

                      No, I am not sure, and have made that abundantly clear to anyone actually reading my comments all along.

                      You grab a scalpel and start putting in chest tubes and the doing other limited number of things that can be done in the ER. Do you stop and take the time to order the large bore IV that is delivering Polyheme removed? Are

                    • I think this thread needs some data. I would like to see more cites from experts in the field regarding your statements. It is worth reading my comment here that I just posted [slashdot.org].

                      My NAZI comment was directed at your slippery slope argument. There have been unethical experiements in the past, but they hardly bring us to being NAZIs. Milgram's Obedience [new-life.net] was specifically designed to model NAZI behavior, but it did not take us down a slippery slope. There is a reason that Godwin's Law exists, after all.

                      What

                    • Imagine hospitals never running out of blood. That would be truly amazing. When it passes its trials this product will revolutionize emergency medicine. Every one of these news items shows why we need this in our hospitals now. Currently 20% of trauma patients die from their injuries. By carrying this on Advanced Life Support units they can reduce that horrible mortality.

                      Are you a paid corporate shill, or what? I never took issue with the potential of the stuff. It might be the greatest invention since

        • There are several kinds of consent. Aside from the "Yes you can do this to me and I will sign an afidavit to that effect" type, there is also implied consent. If a reasonable average person would consent to me doing something to him but he is not able to consent, I can treat him under implied consent. This applies to unresponsive patients of course, but it is also used with children without parents present and some mentally ill. How many people know anything about what is onboard an ambulance? No one i
      • But did it work? I think that matters a bit more than exactly how the testing was conducted. If it was perfectly safe, and people were saved as a result, what's the big deal?
        • They were testing it, so it was unknown if it was
          perfectly safe or not.
          • Yes, but before anything is tested on humans (consent or no), there has to be a reasonable expectation of a result as good as or better than traditional methods. And look, if you're unconsious and bleeding in the back of an ambulance, you're not "perfectly safe" to begin with. That's why you have to weigh the potential consequences.
            • Quite. My reaction was to the "well, it
              worked, so, there was no risk..."
              kind of thinking from the
              post I responded too. I thought about putting
              in something about "I would rather have this
              experimental thing done than die" proviso
              in my post, but I didnt, silly me.
        • Read the PolyHeme FAQ - PolyHeme FAQ [ucsd.edu]


          What are the potential risks of participating in the study?

          Rash

          Transmission of hepatitis and HIV viruses

          Unforeseen happenings


          You trade the chance of dying against the chance of requiring a liver transplant, or a chronic
          illness requiring lifelong medication, no medical insurance, your family not wanting to be near
          you, and having no employer wanting to employ you.
          • Rash

            Oh no, a rash. I bet I'll have to rub some lotion on it now. Oh why oh why couldn't they have let me die and spare me this terrible fate?

            Transmission of hepatitis and HIV viruses

            I can only assume these risks come from improper use of needles. I might be wrong, but if you're dealing with trained EMTs, there wouldn't be much cause for concern.

            Unforeseen happenings

            Standard legal coverage, whatever. The point is, all of their potential side effects are pretty weak compared to bleeding to death. Ev

            • Re:Two technologies (Score:3, Informative)

              by NemosomeN (670035)
              In the Wall Street Journal (The only paper I read. Is is great? Well, it's free for me. Free as in mandatory subscription.) they said it was linked to several heart attacks. Before the testing on accident victims. Something happened, unrelated, that ruled that trial invalid, if I remember correctly, so they didn't have to tell anyone that there was a risk of heart attack.
              • significant risk of heart attack is much better than dying of blood loss. Much better. I have severe hypertension (BP 190/120)so I have good risk of a heart attack, and I'd still take experimental synthblood over hoping I can survive without O2 a bit longer.
                • But this isn't a case where no blood is available. This is a case where there's real human blood, but synthetic is used so that it may be tested. Dying of blood loss isn't the alternative, receiving real blood is.
            • Standard legal coverage, whatever.

              15,000 Thalidomide children [wikipedia.org] don't quite agree with your "whatever". And that was a drug that had passed this stage of testing before the side-effects were known. I won't post a link to a picture of one of these kids as it's now illegal to goatse someone.

              The point is, all of their potential side effects are pretty weak compared to bleeding to death.

              Typical polar argument, you're either with us or against us, right? Well, there is a third option. Give the patient REAL

              • Just to play devils' advocate, what if you don't know if you have compatible blood? O- doesn't grow on trees. In this case, experimental fake blood is much better than dying on the field.
                • Just to play devils' advocate, what if you don't know if you have compatible blood? O- doesn't grow on trees. In this case, experimental fake blood is much better than dying on the field.

                  I hear your point but if people are dying then don't you think the solution would be to sort out the supply of O- and then work on a long-term solution in the lab? I've not heard of a specific O- shortage, have you? If it was a genuine emergency, then an experimental substitute could be used without ethical issues. But th

      • Re:Two technologies (Score:5, Interesting)

        by andrewman327 (635952) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @01:14PM (#15792950) Homepage Journal
        Actually, that is exactly what I meant. As an EMT I am required to know the law. People's lives were saved in these informed consent trials. The people who really need this stuff are in no position to sign anything. It is designed for people who will die without it, so what's the problem?
        • If this comment [slashdot.org] is correct, then the problem is that once they got to the hospital they could have administered real blood, instead of continuing with the trial without the consent of the patient, which is clearly both illegal and unethical.
        • People's lives were saved in these informed consent trials.

          That's bullshit and you know it. It's a whole-blood substitute, not some revolutionary new treatment. Whole blood would have likely been better for the patients even without considering the unknown risks with this stuff.

          It is designed for people who will die without it, so what's the problem?

          Because whole-blood wasn't designed, it evolved. If anything our bodies are designed around blood. Just give them the real thing and stop being so cheap.

          • Do you have any idea what the alternative is? Pumping people full of saline in order to restore lost blood volume. Saline cannot carry any oxygen, meaning that it does little to assist perfusion. Polyheme carries oxygen just like real blood and can keep the patient's organs alive for the 10 minutes on scene and 6-20 minutes in the ambulance (over 20 minutes and you're generally calling a helo). Even though medics are trained to perform transfusions, it is too complicated to perform them in the field. B
            • In conclusion, the only difference between current protocol and Polyheme is that the fluid being administered will be red and will actually help carry O2 instead of being clear and doing nothing.

              The only difference? To put this in context, the UK has just recently had a major news item when one of these trials went horribly wrong back in March [bbc.co.uk]. The last of the victims has only just been released from hospital now in July. At least one is now permamently disabled [bbc.co.uk] (loss of fingers and toes). Google news sea [google.co.uk]

              • From the article you linked to: "The healthy volunteers were testing an anti-inflammatory drug."

                This was not Polyheme! These were people who consented to an experimental presciption treatment. I have no idea how you can compare the two trials. Polyheme had to pass human trials before starting field trials. In those trials I imagine they administered it to healthy adults. This is the stage at which the linked study went so wrong. That drug never made it to the point where Polyheme is now. Also you a

                • These were people who consented to an experimental presciption treatment. I have no idea how you can compare the two trials. Polyheme had to pass human trials before starting field trials.

                  So, you are saying drug trials never go wrong in the latter stages of testing? Wow, you have a lot of naive confidence. There's been drugs that have gotten all the way through and regularly prescribed by doctors that later turned out to have horrific side-effects. Unexpected bad things can happen at any stage in medicine

                  • I am actually an EMT. I am also a college student studying public policy and Emergency Health Services. I personally do not like doctors all that much, but I realize that our emergency medical system is based around their expert opinions.

                    The distinction that I am drawing is that PolyHeme is in Phase III clinical trials, whereas the aforementioned drug failed much much earlier. PolyHeme has already been shown to be safe; now they need to know if it is effective.

                    My point in indicating the difference in

      • by SpeedBump0619 (324581) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @01:39PM (#15793194)
        Hey I can play that game too:

        So, instead of "used on accident victims without their permission" what you advocate is "withheld from dying people because they couldn't say yes."

        Explain to me how that's better. I agree that oversight is needed for such a program. But the rules of the program only allow it in critical cases where no alternative is available. The only thing that bothers me about it is the continuation of its use once in the hospital.

        If you are going to complain about this trial, don't just take one aspect of it in isolation and whine about that. Yes, no prior consent is received...but it only matters in cases where option 'b' is die.
        • Well, I don't/didn't recall the bit about Polyheme being used where "no alternative is available", nor do I recall anything about its continued use in the hospital.

          The basic ethical argument against using experimental treatments (without informed consent) "in cases where option 'b' is die" is that it leads you down a slippery ethical slope in which you test all kinds of stuff on (terminal) patients.

          Hopefully this doesn't Godwin the discussion, but the very first point of the Nuremberg Code [wikipedia.org] (enacted as a res

          • The basic ethical argument against using experimental treatments (without informed consent) "in cases where option 'b' is die" is that it leads you down a slippery ethical slope in which you test all kinds of stuff on (terminal) patients.

            I don't see any slipperly slope here. The cases where this kind of treatment would be used are quite limited. It's essentially only in emergency situations where the patient is going to die without it, you can't reach a parent or spouse to get consent, and there's no othe
    • Polyheme's advantage over regular blood is that is does not require blood type matching. It requires blood to manufacture it. Interesting but not quite as interesting as being able to expand your own blood you carry around in a Nescafe 'instant AB-' jar ;).
  • by nizo (81281) *
    It will look like freeze-dried coffee in a little bag.


    I really really hope they label these bags clearly, or that morning cup of coffee may not taste quite right. Never fix your early morning coffee in the dark either.

  • when I read the above title; 'freeze-dried bloody mary's may save soldiers lives.'

    My heart was racing.
  • OKay... (Score:3, Funny)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @12:29PM (#15792449) Homepage Journal
    " It will look like freeze-dried coffee in a little bag."

    Okay... but what about the flavor ?
  • Looking forward to the commercials with the suave vampires.
  • And needless to mention, it works great as backup rations when actual food is hard to come by! Stir in a little water, heat over a low flame and it's done!!
  • Blood Libel (Score:3, Informative)

    by Distinguished Hero (618385) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @12:34PM (#15792499) Homepage
    An Israeli company is working on a method to freeze-dry blood.
    Great, though I hope this doesn't encourage the Blood Libel [wikipedia.org] people; that sort of thing still quite popular in "certain" parts [wikipedia.org] of the world.
  • Murder mystery (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Short Circuit (52384) *
    Sounds like the makings of a murder mystery. Hate a guy? Give him freeze-dried blood of a different type than what he's compatible with.


  • [ok I'm punching out]
  • Will it be overpriced too?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27, 2006 @12:48PM (#15792675)
    This is an idea that has been around for a long time, but as far as I know no one has gotten it to work. The problem is probably that biological membranes have a hydrophilic surface and a hydrophobic core. In water they are happy that way - the hydrophobic part hidden from the water - but once the water is removed - then they are completely unstable (air/vacuum is effectively hydrophobic). Rehydrating probably gives some incredible mess of membranes. One can add molecules like sugars to try to compensate for the loss of water, but the fact that this was not done 20 years ago tells me that must not be enough - and that there is not some trivial answer. I did not see anything in the article that made me think that these guys had some break through concept.
  • From the blurb I was reminded of the movie Andromeda Stain. When I saw it I remember the scene where they cut open a dead man's wrist and all these red granules poured out.
  • by Churla (936633) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @12:59PM (#15792803)
    Tang for Vampires....

    Little vampire kids could run around with a bag of it licking their fingers and sticking them in it...
  • by sco08y (615665) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @12:59PM (#15792807)
    So you're going to have a little baggy with a sticker.

    If they're smart, they'll make sure that blood has to go into containers with the blood type in big letters, so that even if they get mixed up you can look at your dog tags to be sure you're not getting the wrong type of blood.

    Then you also need clean water...

    Today, when soldiers are wounded in action and need a blood transfusion in the battlefield or out in the field, military medics and doctors usually give them a transfusion of water and salt.

    I just got done with CLS yesterday. The IV bag we use is a 500 ml bag; works great for a hangover. I guess you could mix the saline solution with this stuff but you still need a container to mix it in.

    But it's hard enough to give someone an IV... now, by the time you were doing the transfusion you'd already have a saline lock in them. But imagine having to mix this stuff up and get it into a practical container while someone's going into shock.
    • It doesn't seem like it has to be all that complicated.

      Soldier has his freeze dried blood in a deflated sealed IV bag. Medic or CLS carries water (or saline) in appropriately sized bag. Water bag is attached to blood bag and water is squeezed/drained in. Mix as necessary. Proceed as usual.

      Sure there are a couple more steps, but the logistics are not insurmountable.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @01:09PM (#15792911) Journal
    ...are going to love this. They'll be able to make their favorite food [wikipedia.org] out in the field whenever they want.
  • As a soldier, I would be ecstatic if this were to work as it should. I've stabilized many good friends who got plasma and blood just in a knick of time, because none was immediately available.
  • They did this in the Andromeda Strain.
    OK maybe not "they" but something did...
  • by pacalis (970205) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @03:52PM (#15794540)
    This is what National Research Corporation, an MIT incubator, aimed to do in the 1940s ... It didn't work then becuase the cells wouldn't survive, but maybe they can aim for some good OJ. http://www.minutemaid.com/aboutus/history.shtml [minutemaid.com]
  • Reminds me of the Bugs Bunny/Marvin Martian cartoon where Marvin uses an eyedropper to reconstitute martian monsters from pellets.

    I wonder if they are planning on freeze drying soldiers so they can have an instant army.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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