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A blood substitute (also called artificial blood or blood surrogates) is a substance used to mimic and fulfill some functions of biological blood. It aims to provide an alternative to blood transfusion, which is transferring blood or blood-based products from one person into another. Thus far, there are no well-accepted oxygen-carrying blood substitutes, which is the typical objective of a red blood cell transfusion; however, there are widely available non-blood volume expanders for cases where only volume restoration is required. These are helping doctors and surgeons avoid the risks of disease transmission and immune suppression, address the chronic blood donor shortage, and address the concerns of Jehovah's Witnesses and others who have religious objections to receiving transfused blood.
The main categories of 'oxygen-carrying' blood substitutes being pursued are hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOC) and perfluorocarbon-based oxygen carriers (PFBOC). Oxygen therapeutics are in clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe, and Hemopure is available in South Africa.
An oxygen-carrying blood substitute, sometimes called artificial haemoglobin, is an artificially made red blood cell substitute whose main function is to carry oxygen, as does natural hemoglobin. The use of oxygen-carrying blood substitutes is often called oxygen therapeutics to differentiate from true blood substitutes. The initial goal of oxygen carrying blood substitutes is merely to mimic blood's oxygen transport capacity. There is additional longer range research on true artificial red and white blood cells which could theoretically compose a blood substitute with higher fidelity to human blood. Unfortunately, oxygen transport, one function that distinguishes real blood from other volume expanders, has been very difficult to reproduce.
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