FDA OKs Artificial Blood for Dogs; It Could Also Aid Humans

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From Associated Press

The government approved the first artificial blood Friday. But it’s just for dogs.

BioPure Corp.’s Oxyglobin is big news for veterinarians because animal blood banks are rare and veterinarians struggle to find canine blood donors whenever a dog gets hit by a car or comes down with anemia.

But the approval by the Food and Drug Administration also signals hope for scientists seeking a blood substitute for humans because if artificial blood works for a four-legged mammal, then it one day could work for the two-legged kind.

About 4 million dogs need transfusions for anemia every year, and 20% of the cases are serious enough that the dog could die, BioPure says.


Some large veterinary practices freeze canine blood, and some vets house dogs as on-site donors. But dogs have more blood types than people, so matching blood and thawing transfusions can take too long in an emergency.

“In almost all situations except the dog that happens to live next door to one of the rare banks, if a dog is hemorrhaging, there’s nothing that can be done in any less time than 24 hours,” FDA microbiologist Paul Aebersold said.

In a study of 64 anemic dogs, treatment failures occurred in just 5% of Oxyglobin-treated dogs, versus 68% of dogs given standard, supportive care.

Unlike real blood, Oxyglobin can sit on a vet’s shelf at room temperature for two years, ready to be used. It will cost $150 a unit, about as much as donated canine blood, BioPure says. Most dogs would need up to one unit, although very large dogs could need two.

Derived from cattle blood, Oxyglobin is bioengineered hemoglobin, the part of blood that carries oxygen. Hemoglobin normally is carried inside red blood cells. BioPure removed hemoglobin from those cells to create a fluid that carries oxygen straight into a dog’s tissues without causing an allergic reaction.

It can cause side effects, including temporary urine discoloration, overly expanded blood vessels and vomiting. Because Oxyglobin contains no blood cells and disappears from the body within 24 hours, some dogs will need blood transfusions later, FDA veterinary drug expert Dr. Melanie Berson said.


The company has created a similar product for people, called Hemopure, that is being tested in surgery patients to see if the blood substitute gets oxygen into their tissues better than standard surgical care.