Artificial Blood
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Basic Information

Artificial Blood is, as you would expect, a Man-made substitute for natural blood. At the time of writing, this is an emergent technology, yet to be fully developed and having been science fiction for decades.

Whilst blood transfusion was a major technological advance and has saved many lives, it still requires time consuming and expensive collection from donors, extensive processing and careful analysis to avoid compatibility crises and even then has a relatively short shelf life despite refrigeration and the best life extension factors that have yet been developed1.

The primary uses of transfused blood are volume support (to prevent circulatory shock) and to preserve the circulatory system's ability to transport oxygen. Volume is easily maintained by isotonic saline but oxygen capacity is the current goal - even natural blood doesn't reach its full capacity for up to a day after transfusion so any improvement would be a great achievement.

Currently the favourite technologies are perfluorocarbon based and haemoglobin based. Haemoglobin is the natural oxygen carrying compound for mammalian blood, but causes kidney damage if free in the blood and is difficult to convert to a contained form without damaging its carrying capacity - apparently a biomimetic red blood cell is surprisingly hard to make. There is also the conflict between using organic and synthetic haemoglobin - organic material is likely to be a lot cheaper but has potential contamination issues. Perfluorocarbons currently appear to be a better bet - fully synthetic and delivered as a fine emulsion in saline they promise a stable, long lived product that can be stored at ambient temperature. Developmental versions also have a far higher oxygen carrying capacity than natural blood (to the extent that humans are actually able to breath pure, oxygenated perfluorocarbons) and can be blended with other compounds - such as antibiotics, glucose and micronutrients. Presumably clotting factors and other blood products, natural or synthetic, could also be added to the mix prior to transfusion to further extent its effects. Another potential is a two-part agent designed to assist clotting - one part in the blood mix and the other applied topically to the wound; mixing the two creates a polymer barrier to arrest bleeding.

Obviously, this would make transfusion a far more accessible technology - on a par with saline bulking which is mainstream paramedic work. Anyone faced with the risk of blood loss should be able to buy and store this material and use it with relatively little fuss - making it very useful for the military, explorers and people doing dangerous work in remote locations.

Eventually, nanotech devices may also become part or all of the business of blood substitution, but that is very much sci-fi at present.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Assuming your system of choice has bleeding rules, this stuff should be very useful. Even if it doesn't, transfusing it into someone should be good for some kind of healing effect.
  • Once this becomes mature tech, expect to find a couple of units of it everywhere - a single bag might become standard personal kit for a soldier, whilst logging camps, oil rigs and the like will have dozens. Ambulances and maybe even passenger vehicles are likely to carry stores, a medical clinical or pharmacy will likely have a good few bags in stock and hospitals may carry bulk tanks of the stuff. With a long shelf-life, these supplies might be around long after the end, making them a useful treasure for post-apocalyptic types who know how to use them.
    • Advanced kit like power armour might even have a pre-established jack with which to infuse their wearer if they are wounded.
  • Potentially blood-borne diseases, poisons and suchlike could be treated by replacing all of a patient's blood with a suitable substitute.
    • Also, if fighting vampires…
      • …which leads to the question of what magical properties the stuff can have, or be engineered to have. Can it be used in blood magic? Does it still work as an arcane link? Can it be enchanted to act as a humbug, and if so how long does it last?
  • If the substitute has a significant performance benefit over the real thing, athletes might well cheat by replacing some or all of their blood with this stuff, and a substitute-boost might be normal for elite troops going into combat.
  • This may well be normal for a bioroid or other biomimetic android.
  • The forensics of this stuff could be fascinating… presumably you'd need some kind of batch marker added or something.
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