Banked blood grows stiffer with age, study finds

Sep 9, 2014

By Science Daily


It may look like fresh blood and flow like fresh blood, but the longer blood is stored, the less it can carry oxygen into the tiny microcapillaries of the body, says a new study from University of Illinois researchers.

Using advanced optical techniques, the researchers measured the stiffness of the membrane surrounding red blood cells over time. They found that, even though the cells retain their shape and hemoglobin content, the membranes get stiffer, which steadily decreases the cells’ functionality.

Led by electrical and computer engineering professor Gabriel Popescu, the team published its results in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Our results show some surprising facts: Even though the blood looks good on the surface, its functionality is degrading steadily with time,” said Popescu, who is also part of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I.

2 comments on “Banked blood grows stiffer with age, study finds

  • 1
    Light Wave says:

    I don’t know much about how its stored but if the blood were kept moving perhaps it would stay supple and flexible for longer ?

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  • 2
    Docjitters says:

    Various blood components need treating differently. Platelets, for instance, need to be kept at room temp and are kept moving to stop them sticking together.

    Looking at the paper, the author acknowledges in the opening paragraph that there are a whole heap of things, worsened by the preservation techniques, that reduce the oxygen-carrying efficiency of donated blood.

    The red cells for the experiment were collected by apheresis, which means they aren’t bog-standard red cell donations – at least in the UK, apheresed units are typically given as fresh as possible from a single donor as opposed to red cells from combining multiple donors which may be weeks in the fridge.

    My point is, whilst they elegantly show a loss of membrane flexibility over time, they aren’t able to say whether it affects the ‘quality’ of the red cell significantly when compared to the other alterations induced by being out of the body and processed. Practically speaking, it might just be easier to look at the use-by date 😛

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