MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- New storage containers that can keep blood fresh for up to three days could change battlefield medicine as troops deploy to far-flung places without much backup support.
The Far-Forward Blood Storage Container was on display here during the Modern Day Marine Expo. Packed with bags of blood from universal donors, the portable systems could help save lives of Marines operating far from any medical support.
The special containers maintain consistent temperatures to keep blood fresh, said Jason Payne, acting program manager for tech solutions with the Office of Naval Research, which developed the box. In hot weather, the box keeps the blood cool -- around 38 degrees. In cold climates when temperatures fall below that, it will warm up.
The rugged box can be packed with up to 14 450-milliliter units of blood. When fully stocked, it weighs about 42 pounds and can easily be moved by a single person.
Current systems can weigh more than twice that, Payne said, and only keep blood fresh for a matter of hours. This system stretches that time window to 72 hours.
It also features a touch screen that displays information so corpsmen know whether the supply is still fresh.
"The benefit is that this can be transported with the forward-deployed forces so it brings the blood supply right to the point of conflict," Payne said.
The container can easily fit into the back of a Humvee, he added. They've also made sure it has sturdy handles that can be strapped to a drone and flown right out to Marines in austere locations.
It can run on batteries, solar power or traditional power sources. An alarm will sound if the temperature falls outside the desired range to maintain the blood's freshness, though that can be turned off in a tactical setting.
ONR plans to deliver the first Far-Forward Blood Storage Containers to the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in December. The Warfighting Lab will work with the Marine expeditionary forces to incorporate the blood boxes into an upcoming training exercise so they can assess the product, Payne said.