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Blood's Shelf Life Shorter Than Previously Thought

Update Date: Mar 05, 2013 10:15 AM EST
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Using donated blood at the right time will have the most effective benefits as researchers from John Hopkins University discovered that blood has a shorter than previously thought shelf life. Based from a small sample size, the researchers found that blood kept over three weeks might not be as effective when it is reintroduced to another body. The study, published in the journal, International Anesthesia Research Society recruited 16 participants. The researchers observed the blood after three weeks on the shelf and found that blood became more rigid, preventing them from effectively entering the smaller capillaries.

"The cell membrane changes and the stiffening of the cell membrane is likely to impair blood flow through the smallest capillaries," the head author, Dr. Steven Frank stated.

It has already been known from previous findings that blood ages poorly. After blood leaves the body, it steadily loses the chemicals that are involved with delivering oxygen. However, scientists knew that these losses appeared to be reversed after a transfusion. Now, this new finding might change how blood banks and donation centers work. If the blood really is not effective after three weeks, doctors and hospitals will need to revise and create a new system in which blood bags never sit past three weeks. There are some blood banks, like the Canadian Blood Services that will keep blood up to six weeks.

However, due to conflicting findings from previous studies that show that blood can be more beneficial after it ages, this study is going to be continued and expanded. Since the sample study was so small, there are currently two large-scale studies that are observing 2,500 patients. One of the studies is happening in Canada and the other in the United States and they will focus on the blood's shelf life and the possible side effects of using older blood. The study is call the Age of Blood Evaluation and results will not be known for another year. 

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