March 9, 2007 - A way to disinfect blood or even replace it would transform the lives of millions of people, and it's just around the corner.
Bruce Spiess, M.D., a cardiac anesthesiologist at VCU Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, developed a man-made blood substitute called Oxycyte. It's made from perfluorocarbons (PFCs), a compound similar to non-stick Teflon in frying pans.
He says when you take a carbon atom and add fluoride to it, it can carry a huge amount of oxygen. In a brain injury, swelling makes it tough for red blood cells to carry vital oxygen. Oxycyte's particles are much smaller.
"They are about 1/50th to 1/100 the size of a red blood cell," Dr. Spiess said. Given intravenously, Oxycyte carries oxygen 50-times more effectively than blood. "Within about a half hour to 40 minutes after the patients received the Oxycyte, their brain oxygen levels doubled to quadrupled."
Severe brain injuries kill one in three people. In a study on nine people who got Oxycyte, two died. No survivors had permanent damage.
Oxycyte could also help patients recover from spinal cord injuries, heart attacks and strokes. If it gets FDA approval, it will be the first drug ever approved in the U.S. for traumatic brain injuries.