Australia becomes third nation in world to stockpile frozen blood for troops

| 13.01,18. 02:48 AM |

Australia becomes third nation in world to stockpile frozen blood for troops

After several years fine-tuning the technique, Australia is now stockpiling frozen blood for our troops overseas.

The nation has become the third in the world to provide frozen blood to members of the military.

Trauma cases currently rely on fresh blood supplies which have a limited shelf life and walk-in donations are needed during shortages.

The Australian Defence Force says frozen blood supplies will overcome the hurdles that currently exist.

"It's going to mean we've got more blood on hand that can be used," said Australian Defence Force Air Vice Marshal Tracey Smart.

The project is particularly useful in extending the life of platelets which are vital for clotting blood.

Currently platelets have a shelf life of five days while red blood cells last about 42 days.

"We're looking at extending that shelf life now for at least two years and probably up to ten years," said Professor David Irving, Research Director at the Red Cross Blood Service.

The project has been several years in the making. Researchers at the Red Cross used the expertise of Dutch scientists who pioneered the blood freezing technique.

Professor Irving said the main challenge was maintaining the integrity of the cells once they were thawed, which he likened to thawing frozen tomatoes.

"If you think about a tomato that's put in the freezer and it will come out all squishy, that's essentially because the membranes of the cells get damaged by ice crystals that are formed in the freezing process," he said.

Researchers use a preservative in the freezing process to prevent ice crystals and cell damage.

After successful field trials, more than 500 units of blood are now stored at the Red Cross Blood Service processing centre in Alexandria, Sydney.

The supplies are now ready to be used for the defence force.

The project also paves the way for the use of frozen blood in Australian hospitals.

A pilot study involving more than 100 heart surgery patients has been completed at four major hospitals in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

It involved the use of frozen platelets and no adverse events were reported in the trial.

"We're looking potentially to be able to use that in some of our more remote hospitals around the country" said Professor Irving.

"I think it is quite exciting for a country as vast as Australia to look at whether this might be something that can potentially save lives not only of our troops, but also of our civilian population" said Air Vice Marshal Tracy Smart.


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