Blood Storage Study Offers Hope for Sick Birds

Using DMSO as a cryopreservant someday could generate a greater supply of avian blood.

For birds in need of a lifesaving blood transfusion, the secret may be dimethyl sulfoxide.

A Tufts University research team is reporting in the June issue of the American Journal of Veterinary Research that freezing avian blood using the liquid compound dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) could lead to larger supplies for use in emergencies.

One problem with avian blood is that it doesn’t store as well as human and canine blood because of the red blood cells’ short life span and high metabolic rate, said co-author Jennifer E. Graham, DVM. Unless a fresh supply or donor is nearby, avian patients may not survive.

“This research is important because without a way to preserve blood, it is difficult to treat pet and wild birds with life-threatening anemia or blood loss,” said Dr. Graham, an assistant professor in the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. “If blood banks are not available for particular species, alternative methods of blood storage including cryopreservation could provide a solution.”

Graham, two co-workers and a University of Massachusetts biostatistician were determined to learn whether DMSO would work as a cryopreservant for avian blood. They also investigated hydroxyethyl starch (HES), which performs well in the storage of human and canine red blood cells.

What they found was that “HES may not be a suitable cryopreservant for avian red blood cells but that DMSO maintains the cells’ viability after thawing,” Tufts reported.

Efficacy and safety studies must be conducted before avian blood frozen with DMSO can be used in bird patients, Tufts noted.

The Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation provided funding for the research.

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