BBC Future

60 Second Idea

Artificial blood that’s better than the real thing

Each week on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week, scientist Gillian Leak, a forensic expert on crime scenes, proposes her idea for man-made blood with many uses.

“My suggestion is the development of an artificial blood that can be used in a variety of ways.

It needs to be cheap to produce and easy to store, doesn’t require any type of refrigeration. In fact, a wide range of temperature won’t affect it in any way. This way it can be used in hot countries like [those in] Africa that have limited access to refrigeration as well as countries that have more temperate climates.

There would be a capability to stockpile supplies without any degeneration of its contents. It would also be incapable of transmitting any sort of disease, including Aids, and it [could] be shipped in large quantities if necessary to any major disaster in the world at a moment’s notice.

Appropriate drugs could be added to the sample prior to infusion if necessary to minimise the amount of medical intervention for the patient.

From a forensic perspective, it would also be brilliant if it mimicked the complex internal structure of blood, behaving in the same manner as real blood so it could be used for training purposes in the forensic field.”

You can listen to Leak discuss her idea in more detail with writer Lawrence Hill and blood pathologist Kikkeri Naresh on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-Second Ideas.