Rapid removal of glycerol from frozen-thawed red blood cells



The storage of red blood cells (RBCs) in a refrigerated state allows a shelf life of a few weeks, whereas RBCs frozen in 40% glycerol have a shelf life of 10 years. Despite the clear logistical advantages of frozen blood, it is not widely used in transfusion medicine. One of the main reasons is that existing post-thaw washing methods to remove glycerol are prohibitively time consuming, requiring about an hour to remove glycerol from a single unit of blood. In this study, we have investigated the potential for more rapid removal of glycerol. Using published biophysical data for human RBCs, we mathematically optimized a three-step deglycerolization process, yielding a procedure that was less than 32 s long. This procedure was found to yield 70% hemolysis, a value that was much higher than expected. Consequently, we systematically evaluated three-step deglycerolization procedures, varying the solution composition and equilibration time in each step. Our best results consisted of less than 20% hemolysis for a deglycerolization time of 3 min, and it is expected that even further improvements could be made with a more thorough optimization and more reliable biophysical data. Our results demonstrate the potential for significantly reducing the deglycerolization time compared with existing methods. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29:609–620, 2013