Canadian Blood Services wants to revive WWII-era dried plasma use – National

Canadian Blood Services is looking to resuscitate the use of dried plasma — a life-saving battlefield measure that helped injured soldiers during the Second World War and the Korean War.

The non-profit organization is partnering with the Department of National Defence on this “innovative” project funded by Veterans Affairs Canada that will involve research on how to safely produce dried blood plasma.

“Having a blood component that is dried will allow access to life-saving products in regions that’s not currently available,” Chantale Pambrun, senior medical director of innovation and portfolio management at the Canadian Blood Services, said in an interview with Global News on Wednesday.

The goal is to be able to take plasma from Canadian donors, dry it in a way that is safe and effective, and then transport it into a lightweight container that is easy to carry and able to withstand battlefield conditions over a prolonged period, Pambrun said.

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She said a good analogy for this project is the use of freeze-dried strawberries in cereals that can sit on the shelf for months, compared with fresh strawberries that go bad faster in the fridge.

What that drying process will look like still needs to be determined and will require partnerships with medical device manufacturers that specialize in this, Pambrun said.

Veterans Affairs Canada told Global News in an email that a grant of up to $1.939 million over three years will be provided to CBS for this project.

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What are the benefits of dried blood?

During the Second World War, freeze-drying technology for serum was developed by Canadian researchers and widely used in the battlefield. Serum is a component of plasma (a part of blood containing important clotting proteins that help stop bleeding).

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Pambrun said dried plasma can be reconstituted by adding sterile water.

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CBS said in a news release Wednesday that dried plasma “can be much more easily administered on the battlefield as it can be stored at room temperature and requires less storage space, meaning that soldiers can carry it into combat for medics to administer on the spot.”

This could also decrease the current reliance on frozen plasma, which is difficult to store and takes time to thaw and administer.

According to the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), “frozen plasma currently takes an average of 20 minutes to thaw and transporting it poses major logistical challenges, including requiring a freezer and specialist equipment.”

Dried plasma has a longer shelf life, with studies showing that it can last up to four years in a room-temperature setting compared with frozen plasma, which can last up to one year, Pambrun said.

Since dried plasma is dehydrated, it is also less bulky and more compact to carry in a conflict zone, she said.

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After the Korean War, production of freeze-dried serum was discontinued because of concerns about viral hepatitis transmission. Pambrun said the CBS project is looking to mitigate any infectious risks through rigorous safety measures, including assessing donor risk factors.

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Canada is not the only country considering the use of dried blood plasma in military operations.

The U.K.’s defence ministry also launched a project last year that aims to deliver dried blood and plasma within 30 minutes of injury to soldiers in active war zones.

By using spray technology, the NHS is hoping dried plasma could also be used to treat civilians by air ambulances in the future.

While the Canadian project is still in its initial stages, Pambrun said the rollout of dried plasma could also benefit the country’s civilian population, especially in pre-hospital care for people living in remote locations.

Domestically, the national supply of blood donations is “at risk of falling short” as blood product donations are not keeping up with the rapid rise in demand across Canada, according to CBS.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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