World Blood Donor Day 2024: Innovations in Blood Donation and Storage

World Blood Donor Day 2024: Innovations in Blood Donation and Storage

The WHO reports that while 40 percent of annual blood donations are collected in high-income countries, they serve only 16 percent of the global population.

World Blood Donor Day is celebrated every year on June 14. It started as an initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2004 to increase awareness about the important role of voluntary blood donors in saving lives and improving health. World Blood Donor Day is an opportunity to acknowledge those who regularly donate blood and encourage others to join this life-saving mission. The theme of World Blood Donor Day 2024 is “20 years of celebrating giving: thank you blood donors!” and thus focuses on acknowledging the importance of regular blood and plasma donations.

Blood donation is important as it helps maintain a stable and sufficient blood supply, which is vital for different medical treatments and emergencies. Blood transfusions are necessary for patients undergoing surgeries, those suffering from severe injuries, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and individuals with chronic illnesses such as anemia and hemophilia.

Blood donations can have a profound impact on the lives of recipients and their families. For instance, a single donation can save up to three lives because blood is separated into three components — red cells, plasma and platelets — each of which can be used to treat different conditions. In particular, plasma donations are important for treating patients suffering from severe burns, trauma and clotting disorders. According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds, someone in the US requires blood.

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Innovations in Blood Donation and Storage

Although the demand for blood is universal, the supply often falls short, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The WHO reports that while 40 percent of annual blood donations are collected in high-income countries, they serve only 16 percent of the global population. Owing to this disparity, many people, especially those in developing regions, do not have access to safe and sufficient blood supplies​​. In the last decade, there have been many innovations aimed at improving the safety, efficiency and accessibility of blood products.

Civilian Walking Blood Banks

The Blood D.E.S.E.R.T. Coalition promotes strategies such as civilian walking blood banks and intraoperative auto-transfusion. This coalition involves community volunteers ready to donate blood at short notice. Intraoperative auto-transfusion, particularly helpful in rural and underserved areas, is the process of recirculating a patient’s own blood during surgery​. Moreover, drone-based delivery is being considered as an option to transport blood and blood products to remote locations and ensure timely delivery and possibly save more lives.

Artificial Blood

Researchers have given considerable attention to the development of artificial blood products that can mimic the functions of natural blood. These products are targeted to act as reliable alternatives during emergencies and when obtaining matching blood types can be difficult​. Technologies such as ErythroMer and hemoglobin vesicles aim to create shelf-stable, universal blood substitutes for emergencies and military applications.​

Personalized Donor Intervals

Using machine learning models, researchers are determining how to optimize donation intervals for individual donors, which in turn helps balance the requirement for a robust blood supply with donor health. This approach can help reduce the risk of iron deficiency among blood donors.

Freeze-Dried Plasma

Modern methods of producing freeze-dried plasma have improved its safety and efficacy, making it a valuable resource in trauma care and emergency situations. Products such as EZPLAZ and FrontlineODP can potentially enable local production of freeze-dried plasma.

Despite the abovementioned advancements, the blood donor community continues to face ongoing challenges. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for a considerable drop in blood donations owing to lockdowns and cancellation of blood drives. In fact, the overall percentage of the blood donor population in the US has still not reached pre-COVID levels, particularly among younger donors.

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Facts and Statistics Related to Blood Donation in the US

Despite its critical role, many countries continue to face considerable challenges in maintaining adequate blood supply. According to the WHO, the global demand for blood and blood products continues to rise; however, the number of voluntary donors is insufficient to meet the increase in requirements.

  • Only about three percent of the eligible US population donates blood on an annual basis. Moreover, the American Red Cross has reported a 20-year low in the number of people donating blood​.
  • Females now make up 54 percent of the donor population, whereas minority donors form only 12 percent of the blood donor population.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for a substantial reduction in blood donations, particularly from school-based drives, which considerably impacted younger donors. There was a notable 7 percent drop in donations from 16- to 18-year-olds and a 31.9 percent decrease from 19- to 24-year-olds in 2021 compared to 2019​. However, there was a 40.7 percent increase in donors aged 65 and older, indicating a shift in donor demographics​.

Related: Roche’s Early Alzheimer’s Blood Test Gets FDA Breakthrough Device Designation

How Businesses and Organizations Encourage Blood Donation

Businesses and organizations play an important role in supporting blood donation initiatives. For example, companies can organize blood donation drives, encourage employees to donate and partner with local blood banks to promote awareness. By integrating blood donation into their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, businesses can make a considerable difference within their communities.

For individuals, blood donation is a simple but powerful way to contribute to the well-being of others. The process is safe, relatively quick and can be done at local blood banks, hospitals and during community blood drives. Donors must meet certain eligibility criteria, which typically include being in good health, weighing at least 110 pounds and being at least 17 years old (16 with parental consent in some states).

World Blood Donor Day celebrates those who donate blood and save lives while highlighting the ongoing need for new donors and innovative solutions to meet global blood demands. It also reminds people of the important role played by blood donors in the healthcare system. By donating blood, donors are giving others a second chance at life.

World Blood Donor Day 2024 is a time to celebrate the selfless acts of blood donors and recognize the ongoing requirement for blood donations. By embracing innovations, supporting policy changes and engaging in community outreach, a stable and sufficient blood supply for all can be ensured. As we celebrate World Blood Donor Day 2024, let us commit to supporting and encouraging blood donation and ensuring that every patient in need has access to this precious resource.