Year/Course: 2015-2016, Easter 2016

Contact: Dr Krishnaa Mahbubani, Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology
Mentor: Lara Allen, Centre for Global Equality

Dr Mahbubani is working on techniques that enable blood to be dried to a powder and then reconstituted for transfusion. The advantages of this method would be to remove the need for refrigeration and to increase the shelf-live of the collected blood. Presently the technique can be used at lab scale, but further research is needed to scale up to the quantities needed by blood transfusion services.

Currently donor blood is collected and refrigerated, with a recommended 42 day refrigeration limit as refrigerated blood deteriorates over time. At present much of the blood used globally is collected in the developed world and shipped to countries where donating blood is not culturally the norm. Shipping time uses up some of the 42 day limit, reducing the effective shelf life of the blood once it arrives in local hospitals.

The new technique still requires blood to be donated in the same way. It then utilises a machine to perform the freeze drying process, to remove the water. This means that blood could be collected and dried in the developed world, with just the powder being shipped. Rehydration solution could also be shipped if access to clean fluids is not available. This would extend the 42 day shelf life of donated blood significantly.

To ensure that the new technology will actually address and solve a real need, Dr Mahbubani wants to be sure that she is developing something that will work in practice and will be culturally acceptable in the developing world. The questions for the i-Team are to investigate the cultural sensitivities and viewpoints associated with blood transfusion services, and to ask whether reconstituted blood would be acceptable. The team will also examine the practicalities of delivering the technology as a service, including where the blood could be collected and dried, and how the supply of clean fluids to reconstitute the dried blood could be ensured.