The government approved the first artificial blood Friday - but it’s just for dogs.
BioPure Corp.’s Oxyglobin for dogs 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 Friday also signals hope for scientists seeking a blood substitute for humans - because if artificial blood works for a four-legged mammal, it one day could work for the two-legged kind.
“This is a tremendous step in the context of the therapy and the care that people will be able to provide for animals,” said Dr. William Muir, veterinary professor at Ohio State University.
“In an interesting way, it’s happening in dogs before it’s happening in people. But I’m led to believe it should be sometime in the near future that a product will be available for humans as well.”
Some 4 million dogs need transfusions for anemia every year, and 20 percent 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 different 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,” said FDA microbiologist Paul Aebersold.
In a study of 64 anemic dogs, treatment failures occurred in just 5 percent of Oxyglobin-treated dogs vs. 68 percent 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, said BioPure.
It can cause side effects, including overly expanded blood vessels and vomiting. Because Oxyglobin contains no blood cells and disappears from the body within 24 hours, some dogs will need transfusions later, said FDA veterinary drug expert Dr. Melanie Berson.
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. BioPure expects results from clinical trials later this year.