Tag Archives: blood

Cat saved by a dog- and you’ll never guess how!

dog and cat lying togetherIt’s a happy ending for Buttercup the cat, but the story didn’t start out that way. When Buttercup’s owner brought him to the vet clinic, he was pretty sick. He was lethargic and his red blood cell count was abnormally low. What he needed was a blood transfusion- but veterinarians didn’t think he had much time left. As donated cat blood wasn’t readily available, vets turned to the next best thing: dog blood.

That’s right- Buttercup the cat received a blood transfusion with donated dog blood! Cats and dogs have blood types, like humans do, but just as there is a universal blood type in humans (if you’re curious, it’s O negative), there’s also a universal blood type in dogs. Buttercup received a blood transfusion from the equivalent of an “O negative” blood donor, and the blood transfusion bought Buttercup enough time to allow his own bone marrow to produce new red blood cells.

Cross-species blood transfusions, also called xenotransfusions, aren’t very common in veterinary medicine. However, in Buttercup’s case, he was lucky that this was a viable option! Thanks to advances in biomedical research and an anonymous greyhound blood donor, Buttercup has a shot at ALL nine lives. 

Read more about Buttercup’s story here.

New drug reduces blood clots without increasing bleeding risk

iStock_000000529518SmallIt’s pretty likely that you’ve injured yourself at some point or another and experienced a break in your skin that caused bleeding. Skinned knees, paper cuts, hangnails- we’ve all been there. Initially, these injuries can bleed quite a bit, but after a few minutes the bleeding slows and eventually stops.

This is a normal defense mechanism- kind of like your body’s version of a Band-Aid. Platelets clump together to form clots over injuries in order to slow the bleeding and protect your body. But if blood clots form inside veins or arteries, they can slow or even stop blood flow to vital parts of the body and cause serious damage, including heart attacks and strokes.

To prevent or treat blood clots, at-risk patients are usually given blood-thinning drugs. However, these oral medications can spread throughout the body, so the risk of bleeding is also increased.

However, new research could change that. A new drug has proven to be effective in reducing blood clots in dogs and mice without increasing the risk of bleeding! The enzyme in this drug regulates platelet clumping, and it can be injected near the blood clot to work in the desired area without causing unwanted bleeding in other locations.

This type of drug could make a huge difference to patients currently taking blood thinners. The next steps will likely include human trials to determine if results in animals are an indication of the drug’s chances for success in humans. Read more about it here:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26033-targeted-clotbusting-drug-wont-boost-bleeding-risk.html#.U-q-0fldWSp

Horseshoe crabs: Saving lives, all in a day’s work

pixabay horseshoe crabIf you have ever taken medication, received a vaccine, or had a surgical implant, you should thank a horseshoe crab. These prehistoric-looking animals are actually really important to modern medicine. But why?

It’s all about their blue blood. Mammals have hemoglobin in their blood, which contains iron- hence the red color. But horseshoe crabs transport oxygen through their bodies via hemocyanin, which contains copper, making their blood blue.

Even more interesting is a compound in the crab’s blood called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate, or LAL. LAL binds to bacteria, viruses and fungi and acts to protect the animal’s system from infection. It’s worked pretty well- horseshoe crabs have been around since about 100 million years BEFORE the dinosaurs, and they’re still going strong!

This ability to bind endotoxins makes horseshoe crab blood incredibly useful- and valuable. LAL is the worldwide standard screening test for bacterial contamination, and it’s used to test drugs, vaccines and surgical implants. LAL can detect endotoxins as low as .1 parts per trillion!

The best part is that harvesting horseshoe crab blood doesn’t require the animals to be killed! The crabs are caught, blood is drawn, and they are put back into their environments, where their blood volume is replenished within about a week. Watch this video to see how it’s done, and read more about it here:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/crash-a-tale-of-two-species/the-benefits-of-blue-blood/595/

http://www.ksl.com/?sid=22797818

Snake venom that turns blood into jelly: it could save lives!

iStock_000019991896SmallVenomous snakes are often feared, and for good reason. Snake venom can assault the cardiovascular and nervous systems and cause tissue death, and it doesn’t take much to be extremely dangerous or fatal to a human. For proof, check out this video to give you an idea of the effect snake venom can have on human blood.

Pretty creepy, right? And although the results might make you shudder- and hope that you’re never alone in a room with a pissed off venomous snake- let’s look at the bright side.

Obviously, the venom of some snakes can help blood coagulate. And there are times when this could be a real benefit to people. It turns out that snake venom can help expedite blood test results in patients who have received anticoagulants. It usually takes longer to process bloodwork in critically ill patients who have received anti-clotting medications, and it turns out that blood collection tubes infused with snake venom allow testing time to be reduced from 40 minutes to 10 minutes! This could undoubtedly save lives, and it’s amazing to see the benefits of such a scary phenomenon.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-17/deadly-snakes-may-help-save-lives/5398216

Suspended animation bringing patients back from the brink of death!

Frozen TimeGunshot and knife wound victims placed in suspended animation during surgery? It sounds like science fiction! Suspended animation involves replacing a patient’s blood volume with cold saline in order to induce hypothermia. Doctors at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA will soon test this on patients with lethal injuries. This should give them more time to repair these injuries and increase chances of survival.

And if you’re thinking that this is crazy, you’re probably not alone. I read the first couple of paragraphs of this article and immediately re-checked the source to make sure I hadn’t accidentally clicked on an article from The Onion. But I hadn’t. Even though it’s true that a person can face irreparable brain damage after about 5 minutes without oxygen, cells can survive without oxygen when the body is cooled because chemical and metabolic reactions are suspended.

The technique of suspended animation has been tested successfully in pigs. Amazingly, these animals were able to be revived with no ill-lasting physical or cognitive effects! Now, the procedure will be tried on patients with no alternative treatments, likely someone with traumatic injuries who has already suffered cardiac arrest and lost most of their blood volume with little chance of survival.

Stay tuned for new developments on this trial! The advances we’ve made in medicine are amazing, and I hope that soon, there will be some very grateful patients in Pennsylvania!

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129623.000-gunshot-victims-to-be-suspended-between-life-and-death.html?utm_source=NSNS&utm_medium=SOC&utm_campaign=hoot&cmpid=SOC%7CNSNS%7C2013-GLOBAL-hoot#.UzN4tvldWSp

New leukemia treatment might be able to prevent relapses

iStock_000006901657XSmallResearchers at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) in Montreal have identified a key gene (called Brg1) that regulates leukemia stem cells. What’s more- they’ve figured out a way to disarm it!

This isn’t an easy thing to figure out. Sometimes, when cancer cells are targeted, normal cells are also damaged because the genes involved in regulating cancer cells may also be essential in normal cell function. They need to know exactly what the gene does in order to figure out what they can- and can’t- do with it.

But how do they figure this out? You certainly wouldn’t want to try to shut down a gene in a human patient without fully understanding what you’re doing. This is a great example of the importance of animal-based research. Cell cultures can definitely tell you a lot, but when you want to find out how a treatment is going to affect an entire living system, animals are truly life-savers.

And based on animal and cell studies, it looks like normal blood cells don’t need Brg1 to function! More work is needed before moving into clinical trials, but this could definitely be life-changing. The cancer stem cells that Brg1 regulates are more resistant to treatments, and the ability to turn them off could make treating leukemia easier and also help prevent relapses without damaging normal cells!

Read more about this exciting research:

http://www.iric.ca/en/2014/02/a-promising-new-approach-for-treating-leukemia/

Hemophiliac dogs get some good news!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMillions of people around the world suffer from hemophilia, a bleeding disorder that prevents the blood from clotting properly. Often, diseases that are found in humans are also found in animals, and in this study, researchers worked to find a treatment for dogs with naturally occurring hemophilia A.
Patients that suffer from hemophilia lack a coagulation factor (factor VIII) in their blood plasma. One treatment is to replace factor VIII via injection, but many hemophiliacs don’t respond to factor VIII therapy. 
So researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin figured out a way to ‘sneak’ factor VIII into the body. They took cells that would eventually turn into platelets and engineered them to express factor VIII. The cells were put into the dogs and began to make platelets. And when bleeding events started, these platelets did their jobs and dumped their contents at the bleeding site- sending factor VIII right where it was needed!
Before this gene therapy, these Great Pyrenees had approximately five serious bleeding events each year. But after introducing these engineered platelet precursor cells, that number was significantly reduced, and the bleeding events were easily treatable! And 2 1/2 years after the gene therapy, platelets are still expressing factor VIII.
Next step: human clinical trials. Is this an example of humans helping animals… or animals helping humans?
 

http://www.alnmag.com/news/2013/12/gene-therapy-effective-hemophilia-treatment-dogs?location=top