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Technologies making blood banks available, accessible, and affordable

Blood Bank magazine India

Recent technological advancements are expected to rule the blood bank equipment market through their special features.

The blood bank industry has a life-saving mission, but it is also highly competitive with hundreds of blood bank centers operating within the country alone. Demand for blood has also been in fluctuating, making efficiency an even bigger aspect of the medical industry since all blood has a shelf life. Blood banks need to be highly organized in their processes to ensure purity and accuracy. Demand for blood products often fluctuates, making efficiency even more important to remain competitive.

In recent years, nationwide demand for blood has dropped with the increase of certain more advanced medical procedures. Less invasive techniques, such as laparoscopic surgeries, are on the rise as well as bloodless surgical techniques that eschew blood transfusions and minimize blood loss. A few other factors, such as ordering less blood to have on hand just in case and a move away from the practice of topping off a patient with extra blood, are also at play. In addition to less demand due to alternative medical techniques, the nation’s blood supply has fallen greatly in response to the lower demand for blood.

With a decrease in demand, competition heightens. Blood banks need market share and volume. More challenges arise, especially in delivery timeframe. Hospitals and surgical centers might not need as much blood as they previously did, but when they do need it, they need it immediately.

Other challenges for this industry involve not just quantity or availability but quality too. Blood products have a limited shelf life. They require precise temperature controls and multiple quality tests to be completed routinely in order to ensure purity and blood type.

Fortunately, advanced medical computer technology has become increasingly available, accessible, and affordable. It can help blood banks maintain a competitive edge while ensuring the integrity of blood supply. Technology trends, including microfluidic blood-collection devices, RFID technology, robotics, and smart blood bank inventory-control systems have been helping them to protect the blood supply, stay competitive, and continue saving lives.

Technology trends
Blood banks must keep the blood they collect safe, secure, and viable – and they must do so in accordance with strict regulations. Blood bank refrigerators have evolved to become more than just safe cold storage devices. These refrigeration units come equipped with compressors and insulated cabinets required of any refrigeration device, while also providing advanced control over temperature, storage contents, warning alarms, and more. Another hardware trend used by smart blood bank units involves refrigeration with RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. For example, a blood bank storage unit can now be fitted with RFID scanning machines to read blood donor labels and their contents, track on-hand inventory, and track when items have been removed or added. These RFID systems can transmit their data wirelessly to control stations for review and analysis. A network of blood banks can track which of their locations can provide enough blood quickly during an emergency. These smart inventory tracking and storage refrigerators are mostly controlled by industrial-grade hardware and software that have become increasingly more advanced.

Collecting blood samples from patients with difficult venous access (DVA) is challenging or sometimes impossible. In DVA patients, traditionally used blood collection products are often unable to collect adequate samples, which can also lead to repeated attempts to collect blood. This increases the risk of anemia in patients, and the risk of transmission of bloodborne pathogens to nurses and phlebotomists. To overcome this issue, innovative hematology-tube designs have been introduced to support capillary blood collection for reducing the risks of collection and processing errors in DVA patients. Besides this, a vein illumination and visualization technique – vein finder, a recent addition to safe blood collection procedures – is used to assist healthcare professionals in finding a good vein for venipuncture. The device illuminates the veins beneath the skin using ultrasound or infrared technology and facilitates easy vein access, thus reducing the need for repeated venipuncture. There is a growing trend toward innovations in blood collection. Two firms won USFDA 510(k) clearances for blood collection devices recently – a push-button device from Seventh Sense called TAP, and a needle-free device from Velano Vascular called Pivo. Meanwhile, other firms, such as Neoteryx, are pursuing micro-sampling of blood but focusing on dried blood spots.

Similarly, a Dutch medical robotics company Vitestro has revealed an advanced autonomous blood drawing device. The new device combines artificial intelligence (AI) and ultrasound-guided 3D reconstruction with robotic needle insertion to ensure the precise and secure collection of blood. The blood drawing device is intuitive to use and empowers patients to be self-efficacious during the complete blood collection procedure. It allows almost full automation of the pre-analytical phase of the process. Laboratory automation technology has the potential to reduce high blood test error rates, which are mainly caused by manual variability. Initially, the company plans to implement the new device in outpatient phlebotomy departments, where patients can choose the new venipuncture device or standard methods. The technology can be used by patients aged 16 years and above, as well as those with comorbidities or puncture difficulty. The company plans to begin a pivotal clinical trial of the new device for regulatory approval in Europe in 2023 and expects to bring it to the European market in 2024.

The new technologies in cell separation have evolved significantly from the cumbersome and crude age-old technologies. There are several centrifuge-free options of blood cell separators presently available in the market. Dielectrophoresis has been demonstrated as an effective mechanism for cell sorting in microfluidic settings. Many existing methods utilize sophisticated microfluidic designs that require complicated fabrication processes and operations. Using a simple array of indium-tin-oxide (ITO) electrodes to generate a DEP force field, the cells of interest are hydrodynamically separated from the blood. It causes cell separation to be done 10,000 times faster. Improving the ability to separate particles and cells in a continuous flow pattern facilitates faster and incessant medical diagnosis. Thanks to the new design of these cell separators, they can be used in vital therapies for life-threatening diseases, which can be carried out at a fraction of the usual cost and can be used for therapeutic as well as research purposes.

Membrane-filtration technology presents an attractive alternative to centrifugation-based cell separation since filtration systems are significantly simpler and less expensive. Recent developments in microfiltration utilize membranes for the absorption of unwanted solutes and cells present in the blood. Filtration using a spinning membrane is another method used for blood cell fractionation. Spinning membrane separators provide excellent filtration rates by generating Taylor vortices in the gap between the membrane and the shell of the device. This unique flow pattern creates flow at the membrane, constantly sweeping the surface to prevent the cellular components from depositing on and clogging or fouling the membrane, while continually replenishing the medium to be filtered.

Acoustic cell separation devices can manipulate thousands of cells, separating the tumor cells from the blood cells or specific blood cells from whole blood, based on their significant difference in size, compressibility, and other physical properties, by exposing them to sound waves while flowing through the microchannel. It offers a unique approach for researchers in bioengineering projects and clinical diagnosis. Separating the cells with sound offers a gentler alternative to the existing cell-sorting techniques, which require labeling cells with antibodies or exposing them to stronger mechanical forces that may damage the cells. This platform uses an integration of three modules of microfluidic platforms, which consist of a high-throughput separation, cell spatial organization and cell staining, imaging, and quantification analysis. This platform combines the isolation and evaluation steps toward rare cancer cell sorting and identification.

Latest advances in cell biology, disease diagnostics, and medicine have increased the demand in rapid, safe, and accurate cell-sorting and manipulation devices. Microfluidic devices are at the center of attention due to low sample and reagent volume requirement, portability, ability to work on a single-cell scale level, and self-contained nature allowing safer handling of hazardous liquids and materials. Despite the advantages of performing cell analysis, sorting, and manipulation in a microfluidic chip, they still have a number of limitations that prevent standardization for clinical use and wide commercialization. Among these are device throughput, lifespan, multipart manufacturing, and ease of handling. Multimodal, parallel integration of microfluidics with active sorting and manipulation methods is a promising approach to overcoming these limitations. Magnetic, electric, acoustic, and optical forces can be harnessed to cater to a wide spectrum of applications. Moreover, optical forces can be applied from the outside of the microfluidic device, thus allowing development of highly modular, multi-purpose systems for cell sorting and manipulation. Optical forces offer more interaction freedom, which can be adjusted in real time. Further investigation and development of novel techniques utilizing optical forces might prove to be a stepping stone toward development of state-of-the-art lab-on-a-chip devices. Rapid technological advancements are leading to the development of next-generation apheresis devices with automated interface systems, screen navigation, and graphical user interface displays that will reduce human intervention and provide results faster and more effectively. Technology vendors – specifically digital companies – can play a larger role in enhancing apheresis product features.

Technological advancements, such as automated blood collection and processing devices, portable blood collection and processing devices, customized blood collection and processing devices, 3D-printed blood collection devices, microfluidic blood collection devices, RFID technology, and robotics in blood management are expected to rule the blood bank equipment market through their special features.

Global market trends
The global blood banking devices market was valued at USD 14.8 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach USD 23.4 billion by 2029, registering a CAGR of 4.7 percent from 2022 to 2032. Currently, the demand for packed red blood cells over whole blood during blood transfusion is high among healthcare providers. The surge in the prevalence of hematological diseases and the rise in accidents are the key factors that drive the growth of the global blood bank market. Furthermore, the increase in the number of geriatric population and the high demand for safe blood due to the high prevalence of transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV and hepatitis B across the world, supplements the blood bank market growth. However, the rise in the wastage of donated blood and stringent rules and regulations are anticipated to hamper the blood bank market growth. On the contrary, blood transfusion in emerging nations is expected to offer significant profitable opportunities for the market players.

North America is anticipated to absorb the largest share of the market and it is also expected to maintain its principal position from 2022 to 2032. The market growth in this region can be acknowledged by the presence of highly developed healthcare systems and an increase in the prevalence of and incidences of leukemia. Moreover, the growing awareness related to the use of technologically advanced systems and productive reimbursement policies, and the presence of key players in the region are also driving the market in this region.

Europe is estimated to be the second most profitable market throughout the forecast period. The factors, such as increasing adoption of advanced and innovative medical devices, high availability of systems necessary for blood collection and processing, and increasing incidences of cancer are expected to boost the growth of blood banking devices in this region.

However, Asia-Pacific holds the highest potential for the growth of the market, and it is also projected to record and retain the highest CAGR. This growth of the market in this region can be attributed to the rising healthcare expenditure, increase in responsiveness related to blood donation, increase in the incidences of infectious diseases, and growing prevalence of blood cancer. The markets in Latin America and the Middle East and Africa are expected to grow reasonably in the coming years.

A majority of the leading players in this market are focusing on marketing and promotional activities, product launches and approvals, acquisitions, agreements, collaborations, and expansions to enhance their market presence and strengthen their distribution networks, cater to the needs of a growing customer base, widen their product portfolios, and boost their production capabilities. Some of the major companies that are present in the blood banking devices are Abbott, Beckman Coulter, Inc., Polymedicure, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., BD, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., F. Hoffman La Roche, Siemens Healthcare Private Limited, Terumo Corporation, among other players.

Indian market trends
In a first-of-its-kind initiative, India successfully created a world record by encouraging more than 2.5 lakh people to donate blood as part of the fortnight-long Raktdaan Amrit Mahotsav, which concluded on October 1, 2022, on National Voluntary Blood Donation Day. This is an eventful moment as, amidst all the conversations about the country’s healthcare priorities, voluntary blood donation has taken center stage for the first time. In a country like India, with a shortfall of 1.9 million units of blood annually, as per official data from 2016-17, this commitment to streamlining voluntary blood donation is a much-needed initiative.

The cruciality of blood in any health system cannot be undermined, especially in a country like India where blood sufficiency and timely access for post-partum hemorrhages, emergency surgeries, cancer treatment, and hereditary disorders, like thalassemia and hemophilia, has been a huge challenge.

Once the country can increase the availability of blood units, the next priority of the government needs to be streamlining the blood transfusion system by improving better coordination between blood banks to manage demand-supply gaps efficiently. A hub-and-spoke model or a partial centralization of the transfusion system can enable smaller blood banks, especially in rural areas, to be interlinked to a regional hub with cutting-edge technologies, requisite storage facilities, and a well-trained workforce to competently collect blood and optimally process blood and its components. This will hugely improve the safety of the collected blood and avoid wastage. Further, based on requirements from the spokes or inter-connected smaller blood banks, blood, and its components can be safely transported to meet local needs.

Multi-pronged efforts must be made to innovate blood donation and delivery mechanisms through technological solutions. This needs to be further supported by a policy framework that creates a conducive ecosystem to ensure the adequacy, timely access, safety, and sustainability of blood across the country. Since blood remains the cornerstone of any healthcare system, India must take a long-term view toward making its blood transfusion system an important element of its healthcare priorities and investments.

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