Although blood banks are relatively safe from the financial crisis, they still have more than enough problems to cope with. More than 85 million units of human blood are collected worldwide every year, and transfusions of oxygen-carrying red blood cells – like those pictured here – are one of the most common medical procedures. But it's not clear how effective these donated blood cells actually are at delivering oxygen to hungry tissues, and there's evidence that they may even be harmful in certain situations. Researchers think that treating banked red blood cells with a drug that increases their levels of nitric oxide (NO) also enhances their oxygen delivering capability. NO naturally occurs throughout the body and expands blood vessels wherever more oxygen is needed. If it holds up in clinical trials, boosting NO in banked blood could be a good way to make blood transfusions safer and more effective.
Written by Kat Arney
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