Brussels, 11 Jul 2005
A European project is working to solve the problems associated with using donor blood for transfusions.
EuroBloodSubstitutes, the first project of its kind in Europe, is designing molecules that will replace the need for human blood during transfusions in the future.
People with rare blood groups will be the first beneficiaries. Effective blood substitutes will also help to solve the problems associated with the risks of contracting blood-borne diseases when using donor blood for transfusions. Such new blood substitutes will, in principle, benefit all European citizens as well as the European biotechnology industry.
The EuroBloodSubstitutes project is funded through the Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health programme of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
Led by its scientific co-ordinator, Kenneth C. Lowe at the University of Nottingham, the EuroBloodSubstitutes project comprises a 12 member academic and industrial European team, including experts in biochemistry, molecular biology, biophysics and fermentation.
In 2004 this consortium started the 3-year research project genomics and blood substitutes for 21st century Europe ('EuroBloodSubstitutes') to work on the development of a technological baseline for producing blood substitute components (novel haem proteins) using micro-organisms, such as bacteria and fungi. The participants are working alongside the blood transfusion services and other stakeholders such as patients, clinicians and healthcare professionals.
The project has received major funding, since the potential for production of blood substitute components from micro-organisms is huge. Such technology has the capacity for the production of 'tailor-made' blood substitutes with novel properties.
Researchers are modifying the genes of the oxygen-carrying part of the blood (haemoglobin) and using cell factories to mass produce artificial molecules which will be able to oxygenate the body's cells just as efficiently, but without the possibility of contamination with disease.
Dr Lowe explains: 'We are using genomics to modify the haemoglobin as well as looking at ways to attach it to large molecules so that it stays in the body longer during transfusions. We are aiming to find the optimum molecules for oxygen-binding and transport as well as the best culture conditions for mass producing it for the future.'
This initiative is set to revolutionise blood transfusions by making them much more safe, especially in developing countries such as in Africa where there are still relatively high risks of contamination. The results of the project will be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting in Barcelona on July 12.
For further information, please consult the following web address: http:///www.eurobloodsubstitutes.com/