A journey into space is inherently risky, so UofL researchers have been tapped by NASA to see if they can rehydrate blood in case of emergency on a space flight. The UofL faculty have already discovered a way to, essentially, freeze dry then rehydrate blood on land. Their NASA-sponsored research is intended to find out if that dried blood can be rehydrated in a zero gravity environment, meaning astronauts embarking on years-long trips can receive emergency blood transfusions.
“If cosmic radiation reduces the red blood cell count… You’re gonna have four people needing blood, and there’s no good way to store it with a freezer or refrigerator during that long trip,” said graduate research assistant Brett Janis. “So being able to stably store it in a dry state but then confidently rehydrate it is critical.”
On their zero-gravity test flight, the researchers found that injecting a bag of dried blood with water and massaging it successfully rehydrated a small amount of blood. Their next experiment, however, will see if the same results can be garnered when handling a larger volume of blood.
“The next step is… seeing if our hand-mixed method will perform as well if we are now looking at 20 to 30 times the volume, so that we are approaching a unit of packed red blood cells when it is infused into a patient,” said Michael Menze, biology associate professor.
In-flight video provided by ZERO-G.
The work is supported by NASA Kentucky under NASA award number NNX15AR69H.
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