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A Different Kind of Bank: The History of Blood Storage

Blood. I'm certain many of you are all too familiar with the life-giving fluid that flows through our veins, and seeing it in abundance is very rarely a good thing. However, blood banks are an exception - a very vital and necessary exception. The 'creator' of the first blood bank is a subject of debate, yet most evidence points to the Russian Dr. Sergei Yudin. In 1930, Yudin organized the world's first blood bank at the Nikolay Sklifosovskiy Institute, and by the end of the decade, the Soviet Union had set up a system of at least sixty-five large blood centers and more than 500 subsidiary ones, all storing "canned" blood. America was not without its contributions, however. Decades earlier in 1915, Richard Lewison, MD of Mount Sinai Hospital initiated the use of sodium citrate as an anticoagulant, transforming blood transfusions from direct (vein-to-vein) to indirect - setting the stage for the future establishment of blood banks. Two years later, the introduction of a citrate-glucose solution by Francis Peyton Rous, MD and JR Turner, MD allowed blood to be stored in containers for several days, and allowed for the first "blood depot" to be created in Britain during World War I. Bernard Fantus, MD copied the Soviet model in 1937, establishing the first hospital blood bank in the United States. Fantus coined the term "blood bank", and within a few years, small hospital and community blood banks had opened across the country. In 1939, Charles R. Drew, MD discovered that plasma could be stored far longer than whole blood. Revolutionizing transfusion and blood storage techniques, Drew developed the first large-scale blood banks early in World War II. His model became the foundation for the Red Cross' system of blood banks, of which Dr. Charles R. Drew became the first director.