Dracula may have a square meal at last.
Researchers in China believe they have found a way to produce and harvest large quantities of human serum albumin (HSA) -- a blood protein that is widely used in drug and vaccine production -- from ordinary grains of rice.
"It looks like an interesting technological step forward," Dr. Richard J. Benjamin, chief medical officer for the American National Red Cross, told FoxNews.com. "It could potentially produce large quantities in a reasonable time."
According to the study, Yang He and his colleagues discovered a way to produce the protein in rice seeds and were able to purify the HSA from it, obtaining about 2.75 grams of HSA per kilogram of rice. The protein was tested on rats and they found that the rice-produced HSA was chemically equivalent to the blood-derived version.
"The disadvantage of what we currently use is that it is a blood product, which means it could transmit infection," Benjamin noted.
HSA is used in hospitals for resuscitation, when patients need fluids, when they have lost blood, or for burn victims. According to the authors of the study, the findings suggest that the transgenic rice seeds may be a cost-effective source for HSA and might help satisfy an increasing worldwide demand for the protein.
Dr. Benjamin disagrees that there is a high demand for this particular protein.
"If it were to come to the market it in the USA, I just don't know that there is a screaming demand for an unmet need for HSA." He does emphasize, however, the need and demand for any and all blood donations. "Right now, all blood donations are needed desperately," said Benjamin.
Though the tests on the rice are complete, this method of extracting HSA from rice has to be approved by a lengthy FDA process before it hits any market.