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This project looks to develop a low-cost, blood separation unit that enables donated whole blood to be split into its component parts.

This separation allows a single donation of whole blood to be shared amongst several patients based on their required volume, but more importantly, allows the most appropriate component to be transfused to the patient. In particular, the use of concentrated red blood cells (RBC) to treat anaemia is far preferable to the use of whole blood as most anaemia patients have a normal blood volume and the transfusion of excess fluid volume may be detrimental to health. Similarly, plasma transfusions may be given to bleeding mothers following childbirth.

In developed blood services, the separation of whole blood into component parts is primarily achieved by the use of centrifuges and semi-automated blood presses. It is envisaged that separation under gravity would benefit both the developed and developing countries blood service providers due to the simplified method of blood separation, but more importantly allow developing countries blood services to provide the most appropriate blood components for patients, without the need for costly, complex equipment and an advanced infrastructure.

Health organisation figures predict that 145 000 pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided annually within the developing world through improved access to blood and blood components, therefore a readily-available RBC and plasma separation unit could have a profound impact in saving lives within developing countries. In addition to the clinical benefits offered by the separation device, it could also provide improved logistic benefits for both the developing and developed blood services, which would significantly reduce the carbon output and have measurable significant environmental benefits.

The Nonwovens Innovation & Research Institute Ltd. is experienced in blood filtration, and has worked on the development of both commercially available and new innovative prototype filters across several process areas of blood transfusion. The Rubrovita project will exploit expertise in nonwoven and membrane filtration technology to develop a separation system that allows plasma to pass through the separation medium, whilst retaining RBC. The use of membranes to separate red blood cells from plasma is not a new concept, but has largely been restricted either to small volumes for diagnostic assays or relatively costly units exploiting bundles of hollow fibres.

The Rubrovita project is co-funded by Innovate UK, following an open competition. Innovate UK is an executive body established by the Government to drive innovation. It promotes and invests in research, development and the exploitation of science, technology and new ideas for the benefit of business - increasing sustainable economic growth in the UK and improving quality of life. For more information visit
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