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What Would Artificial Blood Mean for Jehovah’s Witnesses?

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By Torie Bosch | Posted Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011, at 3:30 PM ET | Slate.com

Earlier this week, the New Scientist reported a new benchmark in the race to create an artificial substitute for blood. For the first time, some lab-developed blood was safely transplanted into a volunteer. The amount transferred was tiny—about 10 million red blood cells, or 2 milliliters of blood. Nevertheless, this is a remarkable advance because previous attempts to manufacture blood have bumped up against safety concerns.

“The results show that an unlimited blood reserve is in reach,” one researcher tells the New Scientist. Artificial blood would go a long way toward alleviating the perpetual shortages experienced both here and abroad—particularly in countries where blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS are more prevalent.

As with recent progress in creating synthetic meat, this advance raises an interesting ethical question: Would Jehovah’s Witnesses, who famously refuse to accept transfusions, permit the medical procedures if the blood came not from a man but from an artificial source? Digital Journal reports that a Jehovah’s Witness in India was able to undergo knee replacement surgery—which typically requires blood transfusions—by submitting to a workaround technique called an auto transfusion. A surgeon tells Digital Journal that in this procedure, a “patient’s blood get collected in a filtered reservoir connected to the replaced knee. This blood is then transfused back to the patient within six hours. This obviates the need for any blood transfusion thus minimizing the risks associated with it.”

Typically, though, the religion frowns upon storing one’s blood for a future surgery or emergency. Just recently, an Australian coroner reported that a Jehovah’s Witness who died after a surgical complications could have been saved by a blood transfusion. The coroner said that the death “most graphically illustrates the consequence of the rigid adherence to that doctrine and brings me to recommend, perhaps forlornly, that the Jehovah Witness Governing Body and its elders give consideration to a relaxation of its doctrine."

Would permitting artificial blood, should it become scalable in the future, be a good compromise? I’m no Jehovah’s Witness, so I can’t speculate too much, but it seems that it could be a workable loophole that would allow them to adhere to their faith while catching up with modern medicine.

Read more on the New Scientist.

Article Source: Slate.com


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And this artificial blood is made of what ?

This would be my query. The article says they get it from Haematopoietic stem cells or cells that are the ones used to make your blood cells. These cells can be harvested by long needle into the hip bone marrow of living adults, but it cannot be a regular supply as it is a painful procedure. If you donated your own marrow to make your own blood, before an operation,how would you stand with that? Are they not just creating real blood from your own stem cells outside of the body (rather than an 'artificial blood') that should be really thrown away?

The most readily available haematopoietic stem cells in any useful quantity are harvested from donated umbilical cord blood donated from maternity hospital wards or from donated aborted fetuses. I don't feel I personally could go along with that.



," in the past 10 years, researchers have found that they can coax the cells to migrate from marrow to blood in greater numbers by injecting the donor with a cytokine, such as granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (GCSF)and recent study shown that ex-vivo expansion of HSCs is possible in 3D bioreactor."

We are OK with erythropoietin injected so as to stimulate our own cells in situ to make and give out blood cells from our own bodies, but if I am reading this correctly, this sounds like creating real blood outside the body, from pre-cursor cells, to put back in and I would say personally that is not in accord with how I read God's Laws regarding blood outside of a body. I think there are better methods of expanding blood and other articifial means to increase or maintain our circulation during surgery without encroaching on God's Laws than this for now.

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... but if I am reading this correctly, this sounds like creating real blood outside the body, from pre-cursor cells, to put back in and I would say personally that is not in accord with how I read God's Laws regarding blood outside of a body.

That is the way I read it too.

They are calling it "artificial blood", but it is not artificial at all. It is the real thing. Thus it seems to me that taking it would not be "abstaining from blood" - Acts 15:28-29


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Not sure about this article, but there have been recent articles about making a key component of blood from rice.

If this is what they are talking about, I don't see a scriptural problem with it.


CBS) Maybe you can't get blood from a stone, but how about blood from rice? Scientists have found a way to use rice to "grow" the critical human blood protein albumin, which is used to make vaccines and to treat cirrhosis of the liver and other medical problems.

"It looks like an interesting technological step forward," Dr. Richard J. Benjamin, chief medical officer for the American National Red Cross, told Fox News. "It could potentially produce large quantities in a reasonable time."

How did scientists pull off something that sounds like make-believe? It all started in China, where the protein is in short supply and blood samples are often contaminated.

"That's what prompted me to do something like this," lead researcher Daichang Yang, a plant biotechnologist at China's Wuhan University, told Nature News.

Scientists have used plants to produce albumin for decades, but the yield is often low, Yang said. By inserting an albumin gene into the rice seed, scientists were able to cultivate the protein easily. They were able to get nearly 3 g of the protein for every kilogram of rice - more than enough to produce it in large quantities at comparatively low cost.


This article confirms that it is human serum albumin that is being made from rice:


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The article about serum albumin from rice is a different experiment done in China to this one that was done by Dr Luc Douay at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris. Luc Douay's experiment involved taking out donated blood from an umbilical cord. Separating the 'blood-cell-making cells' called Haematopoietic stem cells, injecting them with growth factors and reproducing millions of real but cultured red blood cells (cRBC) from these by the methods known as: 'ex-vivo' = outside a body, in the laboratory glass vessels = 'in vitro'. They were just mimicking what your umbilical cord blood or bone marrow did to make blood, but outside of a body where they could monitor it and make it breed red blood cells faster,which is different from actually creating something artificial from something totally different, like possibly with the rice. If it's real blood made outside the body then there it should stay is how I read God's laws.

The scientific articles I found by typing the Scientist's name in Google were:

http://francestanford.stanford.edu/sites/francestanford.stanford.edu/files/Douay.pdf (This is a 'Peer review 'or another Scientist's view of Duoay's work, so it's a bit technical.



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Thanks for reporting the distinction, and I appreciate your explanation. If a product comes from blood, any of the three main components, we don't want to take that in, the brothers made that clear. But fractions are a matter of conscience.

The rice thing is neither one of those, it is making blood albumin through genetics. But this product that you described could definitely be questionable. Who knows if this method is even going to be used in the future since it takes so much effort to make it? The people who keep noting how there is a many-fold need for blood could see the albumin making method as a way to fill that need and save lives with a product that works better than saline or glucose in water. We could see that as a way to handle plasma volume shortages without being pushed to use blood.

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