DURHAM, N.C. — A Duke University Medical Center study has found a problem in red blood cells stored for long periods that might explain why older blood has been shown to cause heart attacks, respiratory failure and other problems in patients who get transfusions.
Previous studies of older blood have focused mainly on outcomes for patients using it, rather than the specific mechanisms that lead to the problems.
The new Duke study, published Friday in the journal Critical Care Medicine, found that stored red blood cells begin to lose the ability to release a key molecule called adenosine-5'-triphosphate, or ATP, which helps prevent the cell from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.
The researchers think the stuck cells cause a number of problems, from obstructing blood circulation in the lungs to hampering the bloodstream's ability to deliver oxygen around the body.
They are now studying methods of boosting ATP in older blood.