Impact of blood shortage solution could reach beyond the battlefield

Technology that generates red blood cells from stem cells—originally conceived by the Department of Defense to address the problem of blood shortages on the battlefield—could have benefits in other trauma-care settings.

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences' 4D Bio3 On-Demand Blood (4D Bio3 Blood) Program is developing highly efficient protocols and technology to generate red blood cells from stem cells. A key part of this technology is large-scale cell expansion at low cost, producing enough red blood cells for treatment in trauma care. This technology is also being adapted to create neutrophils, ultimately allowing for whole blood transfusion using these methods in the future.

Cell culture systems can be relatively small and easy to transport, making it possible to fabricate blood on-site, even in remote locations. This reduces the need for extensive donor networks, donor blood screening concerns and streamlines logistics related to processing, long-term storage and transport of blood.

“Ensuring the health and readiness of our warfighters is becoming increasingly challenging with our changing global threats that typically require our service members to operate in austere environments and under very extreme conditions,” said Vincent Ho, director of 4D Bio3 and chair of radiology at USU. “Adaptation of novel biotechnology for use near the point-of-need can provide the solutions necessary to make certain that our warfighters are prepared and also provided the best healthcare, regardless of their location.”

The 4D Bio3 Blood program was established to provide military service members access to quality, non-contaminated, fresh blood supplies anywhere in the world. The program is a collaboration among the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; the Food and Drug Administration, the nonprofit Geneva Foundation of Tacoma, Washington; Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School; and multiple industry partners.

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