How these college students are working to fix the blood shortage problem

Students at Milwaukee School of Engineering are developing artificial red blood cells as a potential solution to recurrent blood shortages, reports ABC2 News.

The project started four years ago, when student researchers accidentally created an artificial cell shaped similarly to a red blood cell.

"They created the donut shape of a red blood cell so they said 'why don't we spin this in another direction,'" said student researcher Kellen O'Connell.

Since the start of the project, the students successfully reduced the artificial cells down to the size of a blood cell and are now focused on testing the cells' ability to carry oxygen. They've also filed a patent for how the artificial cells function.

"There are a lot of shortages, a lot of concerns with safety, especially with recent outbreaks of Zika, as well as matching with blood typing," Haley Steiner, another student involved with the project, told ABC32 News.

The artificial blood cells, which are made from the same chemicals found in orange peels and crab shells, could serve as a helpful alternative to emergency blood donations when supplies are low, according to the report.

"Our goal is to make them last in the body as long as long as a regular red blood cell would and also to have a better shelf life than blood donations do," Mr. O'Connell told ABC2 News.

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