Thursday, July 02, 2015

True Blood on the Way?

The U.K.'s National Health Service has announced the prospect of beginning human experimental trials for manufactured blood in 2017:

Lab-Grown Blood

They're not working on an artificial product like the commercial synthetic beverage in Charlaine Harris's vampire series and the TV adaptation TRUE BLOOD, although other researchers have worked on creating synthetic blood. The NHS hopes to grow blood from stem cells. So far, they've demonstrated that red corpuscles can be generated in the lab, but only in tiny quantities, a few teaspoons at most. Mass production still lies out of reach. According to a doctor at NHS, “The intention is not to replace blood donation but to provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups.” If proven safe in the human body, even small amounts could be helpful to patients with conditions such as sickle cell anemia.

Eventually, though, it seems likely that manufactured blood cells will become available in a quantity useful for transfusions, even if that goal lies several years in the future. If so, will human donors of common blood types become unnecessary (like me, O-positive)? Or will the lab-grown product remain only a supplement to natural donations rather than a replacement?

As for vampires, the Sookie Stackhouse series implies that the undead find the synthetic product less than satisfying. Rogue vampire attacks on human victims still pose a hazard to the public, contributing to the tensions between vampire and mortal that pervade both the books and the TV program. Would blood grown from human stem cells be different, though? Would it taste and nourish enough like the real thing to allow the living and the undead to coexist without fear on either side? Of course, vampires might still desire the intimacy of feeding from live partners, but ideally that need would be supplied by willing volunteers and paid donors. It would be interesting to contemplate a world in which vampires are not only "out of the coffin" but fully integrated into society instead of legally restricted second-class citizens (and objects of either fear, loathing, or queasy fascination) as in Harris's series.

Off topic: Reverting to last week's subject, here's an essay about how parents can use INSIDE OUT to talk about feelings with their kids:

Inside Out

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

No comments:

Post a Comment