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Blood Shortage on the Battlefield? Just Make It On Site

Army Ranger medics from 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment train in August 2019. Photo by Sgt. Jaerett Engeseth/Army
By Sharon Holland

A new program launched by the Department of Defense could be the answer to blood shortages on the battlefield, other remote locations, and in hospitals.

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences' 4D Bio3 On-Demand Blood Program, or 4D Bio3 Blood, is developing highly efficient protocols and technology to generate red blood cells from stem cells. A key part of this technology is large-scale cell expansion at low cost, producing sufficient red blood cells for treatment in trauma care. This technology is also being adapted to create neutrophils, ultimately allowing for whole blood transfusion using these methods in the future.

Precision and controlled microdispensing of bioinks for bioprint/reactor in blood fabrication process.
Precision and controlled microdispensing of bioinks for bioprint/reactor in blood fabrication process.
Photo courtesy of Sciperio


Currently, blood used for trauma care is obtained from human donors and is reliant on donor health, a robust network of blood donation, capacity for long-term storage, and extensive testing. Cell culture systems can be relatively small and easy to transport, making it possible to fabricate blood in locations where it is needed most. The potential of manufacturing human red blood cells safe for human transfusion on-site, even in an austere location, reduces the need for extensive donor networks, donor blood screening concerns and streamlines logistics related to processing, long-term storage and transport of blood. 

A 75th Ranger Regiment Medic  trains to deliver whole blood on the  battlefield.
A 75th Ranger Regiment Medic
trains to deliver whole blood on the
battlefield. Photo by 7th Ranger
Regiment/Army
“Ensuring the health and readiness of our warfighters is becoming increasingly challenging with our changing global threats that typically require our service members to operate in austere environments and under very extreme conditions.  Adaptation of novel biotechnology for use near the point-of-need can provide the solutions necessary to make certain that our warfighters are prepared and also provided the best healthcare, regardless of their location,” stated Dr. Vincent Ho, director of 4D Bio3 and chair of Radiology at USU.

The 4D Bio3 Blood program was established to provide military service members access to quality, non-contaminated, fresh blood supplies anywhere in the world.  The program is a collaboration between the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, which is part of the Department of Defense, The Geneva Foundation, Safi Biosolutions, Sciperio, Advanced Bioprocess Services, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the Food and Drug Administration.