Watch out! I’m a Bleeder!

I was browsing slashdot the other day when I came across the headline “British Scientists on course to become first to produce symthetic human blood”. I must admit that I immediately became very excited thinking that someone had finally cracked the challenge of producing something artificial that carried out oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange as efficiently as human red blood cells.

Sadly this was not the case and while the breakthrough they have achieved is still very, very exciting I was left, once again, dreaming of the day I can have my puny human blood removed and replaced with something a little more efficient.

I am of course referring to my long time fascination with “Respirocytes”. These are, so far, theoretical nano machines that are designed and built to carry out the actions of the red blood cell component of human blood without any of the failures that natural blood is prone to and in a much more efficient and effective manner.

What the British scientists have achieved is quite impressive. Which is (in theory) a way to produce unlimited quantities of O-Negative (the universal Donor type) blood grown from a single line of stem cells. Thus enabling an inexhaustible supply of human blood that is in no way contaminated by any one of the number of nasty blood borne illnesses we are susceptible to.

This is a giant leap forward, as blood supplies are often limited (due to low donation rates) and there is always the risk of infection with something nasty that gets through screening.

However the only thing that’s really “synthetic” about it is that it’s never seen the inside of a living human. It’s basically bog standard military issue human blood, cloned and grown in vats outside of a human. Nice, but not really anything huge in the field of “artificial”.

Respirocytes on the other hand would be a truly startling breakthrough in the modification and “hardening” of human biology.

The theoretical nano-machine is actually rather simple. It’s a small sphere, with small glucose powered pumps along the periphery that can carry out the business of oxygen exchange in the same manner as a red blood cell.

The beauty of the respirocytes comes in their ability to carry 236 times the same amount of oxygen as a red blood cell in less than a 10th the volume (see top pic for scale). This kind of efficiency would allow a human (if they carried vaguely equivalent numbers of respirocytes as red blood cells) to be able to hold their breath of 4 hours, or run at top speed for 15 min without taking a breath.This comes from their ability to rapidly load with oxygen in the lungs and extract a far higher percentage of the oxygen from that air than a red blood cell can.

The original design was to give medical science a fast effective treatment for massive sudden blood loss or as a “stop gap” measure in the case of a lack of transfusion candidates. However, obviously this would have huge implications for human sports and recreation.  A healthy person loading up on such nano-machines would be able to out-perform a normal human in every way due to increased stamina and endurance.

Even if you just consider the added robustness this affords your average human meat-sack the benefits are uncountable.

Fallen in a river and managed to get jammed under a log? Well you’ve got 4ish hours to figure a way out rather than 40 seconds before loss of conciousness.

Going through an environment where a dangerous chemical has been released into the air? Just hold your breath.

Travelling on public transport during flu season? Don’t breath till you get home.

The physical design of the resirocyte is quite well defined. At the moment we are (as with many nano-tech theories) limited by our ability to work with and arrange atoms at that level. But I am hopeful that given time and study we will conquor these issues and bring non-organic improvements such as these to the human condition. Until then the development of stem cell grown global doner blood is a pretty impressive acheivment. Go science!

EDIT! : Found this link which has the full specs and decscription of the devices. Much more informative if you feel like spending an hour or two reading about them. And the Super detailed link with all the maths etc Here.