Blood from Blood Banks used in tranfussions may be missing a key component: Nitric Oxide. N.O. is a chemical that delivers oxygen to the tissues.
A study out of Duke University found that the amount of Nitric Oxide in the system actually decreases as donated blood sits on the shelf. "Now, we know that with storage these things change. What we haven't determined is upon reinfusion, what happens," said Dr. Mary Townsend, Medical Director of Coffee Memorial Blood Center.
Doctors are concerned that a lack of N.O. in blood used during a transfussion could be the cause of an increase in heart attacks and strokes. "We're hoping this study can help us as blood bankers learn how to treat blood in the bag so that it's more infused when transferred back," said Townsend.
Even with the research, it's not clear how the body reacts to the lack of N.O. in the donated blood. The body has been known to adapt to a lack of other chemicals in the blood, according to Townsend. It's important to note that blood transfussions save many lives each year, and donating is still encouraged, notes Townsend.
"Twenty years ago we were worried about infectious diseases those things are gone now we're looking at these sort of details," said Townsend. An estimated 14 million units of red blood cells are administered to about 4.8 million Americans annually.