London: Researchers have launched worldwide trials of a drug that boosts the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body, and can aid faster recovery of patients with heavy blood loss. MP4OX is made from expired blood stocks and seeks to replicate the function of red blood cells in carrying oxygen around the body. The Royal London Hospital is leading the clinical trials and it is being given to patients with heavy blood loss in 56 centres around the world, the BBC News reported.
MP4OX developed by US pharmaceutical company Sangart is a haemoglobin-based product processed from expired blood transfusion stocks. Haemoglobin molecules are the proteins in red blood cells which carry oxygen to muscles and tissue around the body. In trauma patients who have undergone heavy blood loss, these molecules are in short supply, and its makers claim MP4OX can deliver an oxygen boost to organs and tissue in the body, reducing the risk of organ failure.
They say it carries no infection risk and can be given safely to all patients. "We're giving it to people who been severely injured in car crashes, have fallen out of a window, been stabbed etc," Professor Karim Brohi, of the Barts and The Royal London Hospital, said. "Basically it's a drug which takes up oxygen and delivers it to cells which are starved of oxygen because there's not enough blood going around the body," he added.
The drug has already been tested in a pilot trial of 50 patients, which appeared to show the drug was safe. That pilot has now been extended to a worldwide trial
encompassing some 360 patients, to further test its safety and efficacy. "In the initial trial, it seemed to show that people got out of hospital much quicker than patients who hadn't had the drug," he said.
"It was a small trial with lots of room for error, but there was a pretty strong signal that there were a lot more patients who were alive and out of hospital at 28 days compared to the ones who hadn't had the drug," Brohi said. However, he stressed that it was only after results from the extended "Phase 2b" trial were in, that they would know how much promise the drug showed.
Brohi said MP4OX should not be regarded as "artificial blood". "This isn't a substitute for blood because we give less than a Coke can's worth to each patient - while these patients may have lost up to five litres of blood - so in no way is it a substitute for giving red blood cells to patients," he said. "What it's doing is augmenting the ability of those red blood cells to do their job," he added.