Tuesday, May 22, 2007

In Space, Plastic Can Help You If You Bleed?

SpaceToys.com Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas

(Hat Tip: Mars News)

Imagine if you will that you are frolicking upon the moon's surface, and accidentilly fall into a crevice that was hidden by a lunar shadow. By the time rescue teams arrive, they discover that you have broken an arm and twisted a leg almost completely off, causing major bleeding inside your bulky (but yet untorn) spacesuit.

As they begin to stabilize you, doctors realize two things; you body is in need of several pints of blood, and no one on base has a compatible blood type. What do your lunar doctors do? Answer--they pump your body full of plastic blood.

(University of Sheffield) Donated blood has a relatively short shelf-life of 35 days, after which it must be thrown away. It also needs refrigeration, whereas the 'plastic blood' will be storable for many more days and is stable at room temperature.

The artificial blood is made of plastic molecules that hold an iron atom at their core, just like haemoglobin, that can bind oxygen and could transport it around the body. The small plastic molecules join together in a tree-like branching structure, with a size and shape very similar to that of natural haemoglobin molecules. This creates the right environment for the iron to bind oxygen in the lungs and release it in the body.

Unlike Earth, lunar (and Martian) colonies will not be able to rely on a vast population of blood donors in the event that a tragedy strikes a colonists. Until population centers grow to be thick enough to allow for "blood borrowing," humanity may have to rely upon synthetic plastic blood instead.

Despite being in the early stages, this research shows much promise in giving humanity greater independence as they colonize new worlds. Although some may dismiss this medical technology as "a minor detail," this plastic blood could easily mean the difference between a live engineer, and a dead scientist.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

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~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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