MSOE students attempt to solve blood shortage problem

Creating artificial blood cells
Posted at 6:33 PM, Mar 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-22 23:27:36-04

A group of Milwaukee students have discovered a way to solve a problem that pops up every year around this time: blood shortages.

To help fix the recurring blood shortage concern around the world a Milwaukee School of Engineering class is working on creating artificial red blood cells. They believe it could one day transform the blood industry as an alternative to emergency donations.

The groundbreaking discovery was accidentally found by MSOE student researchers four years ago while working on another project.

"They created the donut shape of a red blood cell so they said ‘why don’t we spin this in another direction,’" said senior Kellen O’Connell.

O'Connell said the discovery of the red blood cell shape in a synthetic form was the first of its kind, but the originally the size was too big. That where a team of five senior researchers came in.

"Our team drastically reduced the size," O’Connell said.

A remarkable work of science that left them shocked.

"I don't think any of us really anticipated it reaching that point," said senior Haley Steiner.

Students are making artificial blood cells out of the same chemicals found in orange peels and crab shells. The group has filed for a patent for how the synthetic cell works. It could one day change the way people in need get blood around the world.

"There are a lot of shortages, a lot of concerns with safety, especially with recent outbreaks of Zika as well as matching with blood typing,” Steiner said.

The proposed solution would send artificial blood to remote areas for emergencies -- even for future space explorations in a powder form.

"Our goal is to make them last in the body as long as long as a regular red blood cell would and also to have a better shelf life than blood donations do," O’Connell said.

This project is four years in, yet plenty of research needs to be done before it's used. Next, they'll test the cells' ability to carry oxygen.


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