Not many good things have come out of the two wars we're still fighting, but one thing you can say is that they have spurred medical advancement. They've given more urgency to the development of prosthetic limbs, for instance, and opened new understandings in how to treat pain. And here's the latest, as Wired tells us: synthetic blood delivered to the battlefield.
A company called Arteriocyte, using a $1.95 million grant from DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), just sent a "pharmed" blood product to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. The process, which the company describes as "basically mimicking bone marrow in a lab environment," uses one unit of donated umbilical cord blood to manufacture 20 units of universal, O-negative blood. It'll be a while before we all start getting synthetic blood every time we go in for surgery -- human trials haven't started yet, and right now it costs $5,000 per unit, so the process needs to be scaled up to bring costs down. But if it goes according to plan, soldiers could start getting it within five years. It'll be taxpayer money well spent.
-- Paul Waldman