Published Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 12:47PM EST
Last Updated Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 8:14PM EST
The shelf life of red blood cells may be shorter than previously believed, according to a new U.S. study, findings that could cut the standard storage period in half and lead to widespread shortages.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say that red blood cells stored for longer than three weeks start losing their ability to move freely about the body and, therefore, their ability to deliver oxygen.
According to the findings, red blood cells become less flexible, which makes it difficult or impossible for them to travel through the body’s smallest capillaries. The cells do not recover even after they are transfused into a patient, the study says.
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