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Making blood safer for babies

By reducing the possibility of adverse inflammatory responses to blood transfusions, researchers from the University of Adelaide have found a way of improving the process for preterm babies.

The study, performed by researchers from the university's Robinson Institute, looked at 28 preterm babies who were given packed red blood cell transfusions.

The babies are often anaemic and suffering from blood loss. The transfusions are one of the most common medical procedures for the babies, and according to lead author Dr Michael Stark are "safe and life saving".

Published in Pediatric Research, the results found a potential mechanism associated with the inflammatory response in the body.

"Within two to four hours of preterm babies receiving a blood transfusion, we have seen elevated levels of cytokines and chemokines - signalling cells - that stimulate inflammatory response in the body," Stark said. "We believe that the bioactive components of packed red blood cell transfusions are initiating or amplifying these inflammatory processes in the body."

The team hopes that by better understanding how the body responds to the blood, that improvements can be made to transfusions that will reduce the likelihood of inflammatory responses.

Stark suggests that this means the patient will experience fewer complications as a result of the procedure.

"More research is now needed to determine exactly how this response is triggered, and how we might be able to prevent it," he said.

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