Sinopia researchers show promise of RBC metabolic state as diagnostic for cell quality

Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion is an integral part of health care. Many scientific studies have shown that biochemical and physiological changes occur during longer storage periods of RBCs. In the past decade, there has been fervent interest for whether or not "old" RBCs have a clinical impact on patient outcomes. Several observational and randomized clinical trials have been completed with mixed results. 

Throughout this process and debate, there has been no quantitative metric for what constitutes "old" and "fresh" RBCs. In an Early View in the journal Transfusion, Sinopia Biosciences researchers, collaborating with scientists and transfusion clinicians from the University of Iceland, University of Copenhagen, Technical University of Denmark, Reykjavik University, and Landspitali Hospital, define such a metric. This metric allows for future clinical studies to be better standardized and for future scientific studies to have clear quantitative outcomes to measure up to.

Specifically, RBCs were profiled using comprehensive metabolomics over the course of storage and modeling techniques were used to determine metabolic pathway activities. The metabolic activity was found to correlate with clinical outcomes and markers linked with endothelial damage. Surprisingly, traditional metrics of RBC storage quality, including those currently used for quality control and regulatory processes, were not as accurate as the discovered metabolic metric.

This work was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and European Research Council.

Full publication