Hemopure, otherwise known as HBOC-201, is an blood additive made by Massachusetts
, who also make the contraversial drug, Oxyglobin
. Hemopure is described by the company as an oxygen therapeutic, and it is intravenously administered drug, which aims to sustain blood volume and deliver oxygen
to the body's tissues when sufficient blood isn't available. It is the first product of its kind to have granted a licence for use in human surgery
, when South Africa
, a country desperately in need of HIV
-free blood, gave them one in 1999.
The main constituent of Hemopure is bovine haemoglobin, which is extracted from cows blood. This biomatter is purified via a series of filters and then is passed through high pressure liquid chromatography equipment, before it is forced to coalesce by polymerising it with gluteraldehyde. The resultant substance is large enough not to pass through into area of the body where it could become toxic, but is still over 1000 times smaller than a 'natural' red blood cells, which means it can gain easier access to constricted blood vessels.
Other advantages of Hemopure include the fact that it remains useable after three years of storage at room temperature, as opposed to donated human blood which only lasts 42 days when refrigerated and has to be matched to the recipients blood type to avoid any adverse reactions. Another advantage is that, due to its non human origin, organisations, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, who would normally ban their adherents from accepting blood transfusions have stated that this restriction doesn't apply to Hemopure.
Some people have expressed concern regarding the safety of the product, due the bovine origin of the haemoglobin, and are worried about possible vCJD transmission as a side effect, despite the extensive testing to which the product has be subjected which includes it being administered to more than 700 humans in 19 completed clinical trials and 3 ongoing clinical trials, without any suggestion of this. Another worry is the likelihood that, due to its ability to increase the oxygen carrying capability of the blood, the drug will be co-opted by professional athletes looking to give themselves an extra edge in competition.