Transplants: Hemarina confirms the effectiveness of her artificial blood

Posted on Nov 9, 2021, 5:52 PMUpdated Nov 9, 2021, 6:08 PM

The Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, India, was a few days ago the first hospital in the world to perform a double upper limb transplant on a 34-year-old patient. A performance that could not have been achieved without the contribution of a Breton biotech, Hemarina, based in Morlaix (Finistère). This company of 30 people has developed an oxygen carrier, Hemo2life, from the marine lugworm, the one that leaves small piles of sand on the beaches of the Atlantic coast at low tide. This invertebrate produces hemoglobin playing the same role as that of our red blood cells. It is this hemoglobin which, transformed by the Hemarina company, allowed the conservation of the grafts transplanted on the Indian patient.

A 13 hectare aquaculture farm

The company controls the entire production chain in France, from the breeding of worms in its 13 hectare aquaculture farm in Noirmoutier to the bottling of the product, including the extraction entrusted to the French Delpharm. “With our 13 hectares, we can produce up to 30 tonnes of product per year,” explains Hemarina’s president, Franck Zal.

If the transplant carried out in India throws a spotlight on this company, its Hemo2life product will be used above all for more banal transplants, such as kidney or liver transplants. Not to mention its use as a medicine to treat chronic wounds (diabetics in particular), but also sickle cell disease (red blood cell disease), heart attacks or brain injuries. To date, the efficacy and safety of the product, considered as a medical device, have been demonstrated for transplants through a study of 120 kidney transplants. This will allow Hemarina to file a CE marking application next January.

Less expensive transplants

A medico-economic study on 460 kidney transplants should be completed at the end of the year. It will make it possible to justify a reimbursement price. “Currently, explains Franck Zal, a kidney transplant costs 70,000 euros. By making it possible to keep the grafts longer and in better condition, Hemo2Life should make it possible to save money ”. Because, currently, half of the grafts cause problems: 20% do not arrive on time and 30% are rejected, most often for conservation issues leading patients to return to waiting lists. However, in France for example, the number of patients on these lists continues to increase to reach 20,000, all organs combined.

Until now, American, Canadian or Japanese companies that have tried to develop “replacement blood” have worked with porcine or bovine hemoglobins. They caused reactions of contraction of the blood vessels which led to their abandonment. An unwanted effect that does not affect seaworm hemoglobin.

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