What are blood substitutes?

Updated: Dec 11, 2018
  • Author: Sara J Grethlein, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
  • Print


The attempt to develop a viable blood substitute spans more than 7 decades. These efforts have essentially focused on the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen. Hence, most of the products that are in advanced-phase clinical trials are derivatives of hemoglobin and are known as hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs). [1, 2]

Today, an increase in the number of elective surgeries and the still prevalent but small risk of transmission of blood-borne pathogens such as HIV have served as a stimulus to develop a synthetic substitute for human blood, more specifically for development of a red blood cell substitute.

However, to date, no oxygen-carrying blood substitutes are approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration. This fact highlights not only the challenges that exist in formulating an effective blood substitute but also the immense potential that exists in this field.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!