The internet has been beating us over the head with the fact it's Halloween today, and that means lots of fake blood. But the real stuff coursing through your veins can be scary all on its own. Here are some of the weirdest and wildest things going on in the world of blood.
Over four million Americans rely on life-saving blood transfusions every year. But human blood donations are often in short supply, and natural blood's 42-day shelf life prohibits a long-term stockpile. Scientists have been working for decades to create artificial blood capable of carrying oxygen, but, so far, blood cell substitutes haven't been sturdy enough to survive in the circulatory system. Just last week, a research team developed a promising synthetic blood using hemerythrin, an oxygen-carrying protein derived from sea worms that stands up to churning rigors of the heartbeat. The catch? The researchers are from Cluj, Romania—smack in the heart of historic Transylvania. Could they secretly be working toward Soylent for vampires?
You've probably thrown around the euphemism "written in blood" in casual conversation. Ever been tempted to actually do it? No, because it's gross ... but apparently, not gross enough for Saddam Hussein. The despot commissioned a 605-page Qu'ran written using his own blood—around 27 liters of it—as ink. The whole project occupies a weird psychological realm where religious fervor and irrevocable political power bleed across into full-blown megalomania.
Intravenous drug users already put themselves at a huge risk of getting HIV when they share needles. But why stop there? Apparently, desperate heroin users in some parts of the world have taken to getting high on "flashblood," blood drawn fresh from the veins of someone who has just shot up. Some claim to get high this way (although that's probably from residual drugs in the syringe, not in the first user's blood), while others say it helps ward off withdrawal symptoms. Look, heroin is bad, and homebrew heroin is even worse. Trying to get high off someone else's blood just crosses all the lines you should never, ever cross.
Now for some good news: DARPA, the Pentagon's research arm perhaps best known for backing development of terrifying human-like robots, is funding the push to create a blood-scrubbing device to prevent sepsis, the life-threatening full-body infection that often comes from traumatic injury and can resist even the most powerful antibiotics. DARPA's Dialysis-Like Therapeutics program aims to create a portable device that removes infectious material and returns clean blood to the patient's circulatory system. Component testing began earlier this year, and the hope is that a completed device will help prevent sepsis on the battlefield and in civilian hospitals.
Blood clots are one of nature's great lifesavers—without them, you could die of blood loss from a paper cut. But uncontrolled clots that cut off blood flow to vital organs are a killer. For the most part, pulmonary embolism (clots blocking circulation in the lungs) has been treated with blood-thinning drugs—and not always successfully. Now, Angio Dynamics has built a blood-sucking vein-vacuum that hoovers out life-threatening emboli. AngioVac has already shown promise in clinical use. If you had a clot, you'd probably offer yourself up willingly to the tentacles of this robo-vampire and let it clean you out from within.