As populations age and more people live with chronic or life-threatening diseases, the need to ensure a steady supply of quality blood is becoming dire. Hemopure, a hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier (HBOC) developed by Hemoglobin Oxygen Therapeutics, has pulled hundreds of people from the brink, serving as the last resort for doctors caught in a desperate battle for lives. The story of one of these patients was recently featured in Men’s Health Magazine. The article details the agony of Alexis Piper, while a team at Brooke Army Medical Center outside San Antonio, TX, struggled to overcome the crisis.
Hemopure requires no blood typing or cross matching and can be stored at room temperature for at least three years, making it ideal for out-of-hospital applications and stockpiling for national emergencies. The FDA currently allows “compassionate use” of the product for patients with life-threatening conditions who no longer have any treatment options left. Such was the case with Alexis, whose sickle-cell anemia flared up and resulted in a crisis that got worse despite the blood transfusions.
“Alexis’ hematologist, Lauren Lee, MD, recognized the problem immediately: the patient had been receiving transfusions since age seven. Now she’d entered a potentially fatal state of hyper-hemolysis, a condition in which the immune system attacks red blood cells, believing them to be an invading pathogen, which further hampers fresh oxygen transportation to strangled cells,” the article narrates. The situation was so desperate that the medical team told Alexis’ husband, Antwan, to prepare for the worst. Fortunately, Dr. Lee decided to try Hemopure as a last resort as she consulted two leading hematologists.
With sickle-cell anemia being such a debilitating disease, it was a hard-fought battle with some complications along the way, but Alexis survived.
“The oxygen-deprived state had damaged her muscles and motor skills, so she spent several months in physical and cognitive therapy with a home nurse, learning to walk again,” author writes. “Alexis views the experience as nothing short of a miracle: ‘I’m grateful that God could use something that hadn‘t been done before and allow it graciously to help me in a very tough time and an ugly, life-threatening situation.’”
This particular case is noteworthy because Alexis suffers from one of a group of disorders known as sickle-cell disease, which requires regular blood transfusions and affects about 100,000 Americans. As the Men’s Health Magazine piece notes, Hemopure has also recently saved the lives of two other sickle-cell disease patients –a 19-year-old male in North Carolina and a 28-year-old man in Nebraska.
“All told, more than $1 billion has been invested in research and development for Hemopure, and the product has saved more than 400 people in life-or-death situations. That survival rate should only increase with more chances,” according to the article. It also notes, “Because Hemopure is not actual blood, it could theoretically be given to just about anyone. It’s shelf-stable and adaptive to any blood type. Gin up enough and you could have it on tap in ambulances and Army medic backpacks, just about anywhere you might need a life-saving transfusion on demand.”
Hemopure Addresses the Serious Threat Posed to US Blood Supplies by the Emerging Infectious Diseases: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/hemopure-addresses-serious-threat-posed-154500319.html COVID-19 highlights need for blood donations: https://ufhealth.org/news/2020/covid-19-highlights-need-blood-donations