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AABB > Resource Center > Blood and Cellular Therapies Information

Highlights of Transfusion Medicine History 

1628 English physician William Harvey discovers the circulation of blood. Shortly afterward, the earliest known blood transfusion is attempted.

1665 The first recorded successful blood transfusion occurs in England: Physician Richard Lower keeps dogs alive by transfusion of blood from other dogs.

1667 Jean-Baptiste Denis in France and Richard Lower in England separately report successful transfusions from lambs to humans. Within 10 years, transfusing the blood of animals to humans becomes prohibited by law because of reactions.

1795 In Philadelphia, American physician Philip Syng Physick, performs the first human blood transfusion, although he does not publish this information.

1818 James Blundell, a British obstetrician, performs the first successful transfusion of human blood to a patient for the treatment of postpartum hemorrhage. Using the patient's husband as a donor, he extracts approximately four ounces of blood from the husband's arm and, using a syringe, successfully transfuses the wife. Between 1825 and 1830, he performs 10 transfusions, five of which prove beneficial to his patients, and publishes these results. He also devises various instruments for performing transfusions and proposed rational indications.

1840 At St. George's School in London, Samuel Armstrong Lane, aided by consultant Dr. Blundell, performs the first successful whole blood transfusion to treat hemophilia.

1867 English surgeon Joseph Lister uses antiseptics to control infection during transfusions.

1873-1880 US physicians transfuse milk (from cows, goats, and humans).

1884 Saline infusion replaces milk as a “blood substitute” due to the increased frequency of adverse reactions to milk.

1900 Karl Landsteiner, an Austrian physician, discovers the first three human blood groups, A, B, and C. Blood type C was later changed to O. His colleagues Alfred Decastello and Adriano Sturli add AB, the fourth type, in 1902. Landsteiner receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine for this discovery in 1930.

1907 Hektoen suggests that the safety of transfusion might be improved by crossmatching blood between donors and patients to exclude incompatible mixtures. Reuben Ottenberg performs the first blood transfusion using blood typing and crossmatching in New York. Ottenberg also observed the mendelian inheritance of blood groups and recognized the “universal” utility of group O donors.

1908 French surgeon Alexis Carrel devises a way to prevent clotting by sewing the vein of the recipient directly to the artery of the donor. This vein-to-vein or direct method, known as anastomosis, is practiced by a number of physicians, among them J.B. Murphy in Chicago and George Crile in Cleveland. The procedure proves unfeasible for blood transfusions, but paves the way for successful organ transplantation, for which Carrel receives the Nobel Prize in 1912.

1908 Moreschi describes the antiglobulin reaction. The antiglobulin is a direct way of visualizing an antigen-antibody reaction that has taken place but is not directly visible. The antigen and antibody react with each other, then, after washing to remove any unbound antibody, the antiglobulin reagent is added and binds between the antibody molecules that are stuck onto the antigen. This makes the complex big enough to see.

1912 Roger Lee, a visiting physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital, along with Paul Dudley White, develops the Lee-White clotting time. Adding another important discovery to the growing body of knowledge of transfusion medicine, Lee demonstrates that it is safe to give group O blood to patients of any blood group, and that blood from all groups can be given to group AB patients. The terms "universal donor" and "universal recipient" are coined.

1914 Long-term anticoagulants, among them sodium citrate, are developed, allowing longer preservation of blood.

1915 At Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, Richard Lewisohn uses sodium citrate as an anticoagulant to transform the transfusion procedure from direct to indirect. In addition, Richard Weil demonstrates the feasibility of refrigerated storage of such anticoagulated blood. Although this is a great advance in transfusion medicine, it takes 10 years for sodium citrate use to be accepted.

1916 Francis Rous and J.R.Turner introduce a citrate-glucose solution that permits storage of blood for several days after collection. Allowing for blood to be stored in containers for later transfusion aids the transition from the vein-to-vein method to indirect transfusion. This discovery also allows for the establishment of the first blood depot by the British during World War I. Oswald Robertson, an American Army officer, is credited with creating the blood depots. Robertson received the AABB Landsteiner Award in 1958 as developer of the first blood bank.

1927-1947 The MNSs and P systems are discovered. MNSs and P are two more blood group antigen systems — just as ABO is one system and Rh is another.

1932 The first blood bank is established in a Leningrad hospital.

1937 Bernard Fantus, director of therapeutics at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago, establishes the first hospital blood bank in the United States. In creating a hospital laboratory that can preserve and store donor blood, Fantus originates the term "blood bank." Within a few years, hospital and community blood banks begin to be established across the United States. Some of the earliest are in San Francisco, New York, Miami, and Cincinnati.

1939/40 The Rh blood group system is discovered by Karl Landsteiner, Alex Wiener, Philip Levine, and R.E. Stetson and is soon recognized as the cause of the majority of transfusion reactions. Identification of the Rh factor takes its place next to the discovery of ABO as one of the most important breakthroughs in the field of blood banking.

1940 Edwin Cohn, a professor of biological chemistry at Harvard Medical School, develops cold ethanol fractionation, the process of breaking down plasma into components and products. Albumin, a protein with powerful osmotic properties, plus gamma globulin and fibrinogen are isolated and become available for clinical use. John Elliott develops the first blood container, a vacuum bottle extensively used by the Red Cross.

1940 The United States government establishes a nationwide program for the collection of blood. Charles R. Drew develops the “Plasma for Britain” program — a pilot project to collect blood for shipment to the British Isles. The American Red Cross participates, collecting 13 million units of blood by the end of World War II.

1941 Isodor Ravdin, a prominent surgeon from Philadelphia, effectively treats victims of the Pearl Harbor attack with Cohn's albumin for shock. Injected into the blood stream, albumin absorbs liquid from surrounding tissues, preventing blood vessels from collapsing, a finding associated with shock.

1943 The introduction by J.F. Loutit and Patrick L. Mollison of acid citrate dextrose (ACD) solution, which reduces the volume of anticoagulant, permits transfusions of greater volumes of blood and permits longer term storage.

1943 P. Beeson publishes the classic description of transfusion-transmitted hepatitis.

1945 Coombs, Mourant, and Race describe the use of antihuman globulin (later known as the “Coombs Test”) to identify “incomplete” antibodies.

1947 The American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) is formed to promote common goals among blood banking practitioners and the blood donating public.

1949-1950 The US blood collection system includes 1,500 hospital blood banks, 46 community blood centers, and 31 American Red Cross regional blood centers.

1950 Audrey Smith reports the use of glycerol cryoprotectant for freezing red blood cells.

1950 In one of the single most influential technical developments in blood banking, Carl Walter and W.P. Murphy, Jr., introduce the plastic bag for blood collection. Replacing breakable glass bottles with durable plastic bags allows for the evolution of a collection system capable of safe and easy preparation of multiple blood components from a single unit of whole blood. Development of the refrigerated centrifuge in 1953 further expedites blood component therapy.

1953 The AABB Clearinghouse is established, providing a centralized system for exchanging blood among blood banks. Today, the Clearinghouse is called the National Blood Exchange.

Mid-1950s In response to the heightened demand created by open-heart surgery and advances in trauma care patients, blood use enters its most explosive growth period.

1957 The AABB forms its committee on Inspection and Accreditation to monitor the implementation of standards for blood banking.

1958 The AABB publishes its first edition of Standards for a Blood Transfusion Service (now titled Standards for Blood Banks and Transfusion Services).

1959 Max Perutz of Cambridge University deciphers the molecular structure of hemoglobin, the molecule that transports oxygen and gives red blood cells their color.

1960 The AABB begins publication of TRANSFUSION, the first American journal wholly devoted to the science of blood banking and transfusion technology. In this same year, A. Solomon and J.L. Fahey report the first therapeutic plasmapheresis procedure — a procedure that separates whole blood into plasma and red blood cells.

1961 The role of platelet concentrates in reducing mortality from hemorrhage in cancer patients is recognized.

1962 The first antihemophilic factor (AHF) concentrate to treat coagulation disorders in hemophilia patients is developed through fractionation.

1962 In the US, there were 4,400 hospital blood banks, 123 community blood centers and 55 American Red Cross blood centers, collecting a total of five to six million units of blood per year.

1964 Plasmapheresis is introduced as a means of collecting plasma for fractionation.

1965 Judith G. Pool and Angela E. Shannon report a method for producing Cryoprecipitated AHF for treatment of hemophilia.

1967 Rh immune globulin is commercially introduced to prevent Rh disease in the newborns of Rh-negative women.

1969 S. Murphy and F. Gardner demonstrate the feasibility of storing Platelets at room temperature, revolutionizing platelet transfusion therapy.

1970 Blood banks move toward an all-volunteer blood donor system.

1971 Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) testing of donated blood begins.

1972 Apheresis is used to extract one cellular component, returning the rest of the blood to the donor.

1979 A new anticoagulant preservative, CPDA-1, extends the shelf life of whole blood and red blood cells to 35 days, increasing the blood supply and facilitating resource sharing among blood banks.

Early 1980s With the growth of component therapy, products for coagulation disorders, and plasma exchange for the treatment of autoimmune disorders, hospital and community blood banks enter the era of transfusion medicine, in which doctors trained specifically in blood transfusion actively participate in patient care.

1981 First Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) case reported.

1983 Additive solutions extend the shelf life of red blood cells to 42 days.

1984 Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) identified as cause of AIDS

1985 The first blood-screening test to detect HIV is licensed and quickly implemented by blood banks to protect the blood supply.

1987 Two tests that screen for indirect evidence of hepatitis are developed and implemented, hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc) and the alanine aminotransferase test (ALT).

1989 Human-T-Lymphotropic-Virus-I-antibody (anti-HTLV-I) testing of donated blood begins.

1990 Introduction of first specific test for hepatitis C, the major cause of “non-A, non-B” hepatitis.

1992 Testing of donor blood for HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies (anti-HIV-1 and anti-HIV-2) is implemented.

1996 HIV p24 antigen testing of donated blood begins. Although the test does not completely close the HIV window, it shortens the window period.

1997 U.S. Government issues two reports suggesting ways to improve blood safety, including regulatory reform.
National Blood Data Resource Center founded by AABB to collect, analyze and distribute data on all aspects of blood banking and transfusion medicine.

1998 HCV lookback campaign — a public health effort to alert anyone who may have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus (HCV) through blood transfusions before July 1992 so they can receive medical counseling and treatment if needed.

1999 Blood community begins implementation of Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAT) under the FDA’s Investigational New Drug (IND) application process. NAT employs a testing technology that directly detects the genetic materials of viruses like HCV and HIV.

2002 West Nile virus identified as transfusion transmissible.

2002 Nucleic acid amplification test (NAT) for HIV and HCV was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration.

2003 First-ever National Blood Foundation forum unites leaders in blood banking and transfusion medicine

2003 FDA issues final guidance regarding “Revised Recommendations for the Assessment of Donor Suitability and Blood and Blood Product Safety in Cases of Known or Suspected West Nile Virus Infection.”

2003 First West Nile Virus-positive unit of blood intercepted.

2003 Guidance on Implementation of New Bacteria Reduction and Detection Standard issued.

2004 AABB receives $2.4 Million CDC grant to reduce transfusion-transmitted HIV in Africa and South America.

2005 FDA clears apheresis platelets collected with certain systems for routine storage and patient transfusion up to 7 days when tested with a microbial detection system release test.

2005 FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research publishes compliance program guidance for inspection of human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products (HCT/Ps).

2005 AABB founding member Tibor Greenwalt dies.

2005 FDA approves the first West Nile virus (WNV) blood test to screen donors of blood, organs, cells and tissues.

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