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DARPA inks $2m deal for vat-grown artificial blood tech

'Blood pharming' to replace US troops' spilt claret

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An American biotech company has been awarded a $2m deal to produce "blood pharming" technology for the US military. The proposed kit would allow US forces to grow large supplies of genuine human blood in tanks, for use in transfusions to help wounded troops.

The "pharming" programme is being run, of course, by renowned Pentagon crazytech bureau DARPA. The military wingnut-boffins, while admitting that they may not be able to get blood out of a stone - that would plainly be to bang one's head against a brick wall - consider that a mysterious bubbling apparatus with a vat-nourished red cell culture is a different matter.

Now they have inked a deal with Massachusetts biotech firm Arteriocyte for $1,950,000 under which the firm will apply its NANEX technology to the blood pharming push. NANEX was developed for making stem cells of various types multiply outside a living human body, and the firm thinks it might be able to get this to work on umbilical cord blood - thus growing large supplies of red cells, the key component needed in combat-medicine blood transfusions.

While the system is being developed for the military, which finds it particularly troublesome to get properly-handled supplies of donor blood into far-flung medical centres, if the kit works it could certainly have civilian applications as well. The idea would be to produce only "universal donor" O-negative blood, acceptable to the largest possible number of patients.

The Arteriocyte synthi-blood boffins are to collaborate with others at Johns Hopkins University, Ohio State University and at INSERM in Paris.

There was no word on any Transylvanian interest. ®

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