Modern transfusion medicine relies on the safe, secure, and cost-effective delivery of donated red blood cells (RBCs). Once isolated, RBCs are suspended in a defined additive solution and stored in plastic blood bags in which, over time, they undergo chemical, physiological, and morphological changes that may have a deleterious impact on some patients. Regulations limit the storage period to 42 days and the cells do not routinely undergo analytical testing before use. In this study, we use Raman spectroscopy to interrogate stored RBCs and we identify metabolic and cell-breakdown products, such as haemoglobin and membrane fragments, that build-up in the blood bags as the cells age. Our work points the way to the development of an instrument which could quickly and easily assess the biochemical nature of stored RBC units before they are transfused.
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