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Blood Purifier in the Works

Simple process holds promise for killing off even the HIV virus

A new process for purifying blood to rid it of dangerous bacteria and viruses, including the one that causes AIDS, holds out hope for making blood supplies far safer, USA TODAY reports.

According to the paper, the process -- called Helinx -- uses ultraviolet light to treat blood and has proven successful in hundreds of people across the country. Still, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn't expected to approve the process until next year, after the results of studies on 600 people have been submitted for review, the story says.

According to the paper, one of the great features of the process is its simplicity. Inside the bags that are used to collect blood products, there's a solution called a psoralen compound. "When the donated blood mixes with the solution, the molecules from the compound mingle with the DNA and RNA of any virus, bacterium or parasite. When exposed to an ultraviolet light, the psoralen compound links with the DNA and creates a permanent bond. When the light is turned off, the chemical reaction ends but the bonds remain. The chains with the codes for life then cannot 'unzip' to reproduce, so the disease cannot spread," the story says.

Scientists say the process even kills diseases that are so new they have not been identified, offering the potential to stop epidemics before they begin.

To learn more about donating blood, visit the American Red Cross Web site.

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