This medical video looks into alternatives to blood transfusions.
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Jennifer Matthews: Blood has always been the cornerstone of modern medicine. Often trauma victims and surgery patients need donor blood to stay alive. Amateur artist Emily Gruska needed blood when she came down with a serious immune disorder called Evans Syndrome. Emily Gruska: My platelets were 7,000 and normal is 150,000-300,000 or so. Jennifer Matthews: The problem was her body wouldn't accept a transfusion. Emily Gruska: The blood cells as they enter my system, my immune system would recognize it as a foreign substance like a disease. Jennifer Matthews: Emily might have died, had her doctors not resorted to cutting-edge medicine. They transfused her with a blood substitute made from the hemoglobin of cows' blood. Dr. Jonathan Jahr: So it really is blood, but it's recombined in a brand new way into a new packaging that can actually be room-temperature stable for up to three years. Jennifer Matthews: UCLA's Dr. Jonathan Jahr studied Hemoglobin-Based Oxygen Carriers, or HBOCs. Though the drugs didn't last long, most patients in the study began making their own red blood cells after four or five days. Dr. Jonathan Jahr: 60% of patients didn't require anybody else's red blood cells. So we were able to avoid blood transfusions in 60% of patients who otherwise absolutely would have received blood. Jennifer Matthews: In Emily's case, the compound stabilized her long enough for doctors to treat the underlying immune disorder. Today, she's fine, and she credits the new blood substitute. Emily Gruska: It's about the only reason I'm alive. Jennifer Matthews: This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.