Photo/IllutrationThe number of cats kept as pets surpassed that of dogs in Japan in 2017. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Scientists have crystallized proteins in space to manufacture artificial cat blood for use in surgeries on the popular pet back down on Earth.

“The animal medical front has struggled with a severe shortage of transfusion blood,” said Teruyuki Komatsu, professor of applied chemistry of Chuo University. “Artificial blood will contribute to animal health care.”

Proteins that can be used to make artificial blood crystallize much better in a gravity-free environment than they do on Earth, according to Komatsu.

Samples of serum albumin, proteins contained in the blood of cats, were crystallized in the crystal-growth facility aboard the Japanese experimental module Kibo of the International Space Station, scientists of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Chuo University announced on March 19.

Back on Earth, Japanese scientists analyzed the structure of the crystallized proteins.

By identifying the structure of the protein, the scientific team produced components that can be preserved as powder and utilized for artificial blood.

The components work with different blood types so it carries no risk of rejection.

The number of cats kept as pets surpassed that of dogs in Japan in 2017, according to the Japan Pet Food Association.

Despite the rise in the number of surgeries that require blood transfusions, a national system to stockpile blood to be infused into the animals has not been created.

Scientists are also developing artificial blood that can be infused into dogs.

The study team aims to put the artificial blood into practical use after confirming its safety.

The study results were published March 19 in the online edition of the British scientific journal Journal of Materials Chemistry B.