Perhaps ranking behind only bullets and water, blood is one of those things you really don't want to run out of on the battlefield. But better battlefield medicine -- as well as some of the more malicious combat techniques employed by insurgent guerrilla fighters -- mean more soldiers are surviving their injuries, and that puts military blood banks in a bind. But a DARPA program launched in 2008 is coming to fruition, potentially providing medics an endless stream of universally accepted O-negative blood through a process known as blood pharming.
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Two years ago, DARPA set a goal of creating a self-contained, synthetic platform that can cultivate red blood cells that can stand up to the violent demands of the battlefield. Through the process of "pharming," or genetically engineering an organism to generate large quantities of a useful substance, the DoD's R&D arm was hoping to end blood shortages on the battlefield for good.
A company awarded nearly $2 million to develop this genetically engineered blood product has shipped off the first shipment to the FDA, hoping the regulators will approve it for use in trauma wards everywhere. The biotech company, Arteriocyte, can turn an umbilical cord into 20 units of blood in about three days at a cost of about $5,000 per unit. That's a bit steep, but if the FDA approves the blood product and the company is able to scale the production method, fake blood could be the real deal.
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