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Will functional respirocytes be used successfully in any mammal before 2035?

Respirocytes are hypothetical artificial red blood cells that are intended to emulate the function of their organic counterparts, so as to supplement or replace the function of much of the human body's normal respiratory system. Respirocytes were proposed by Robert A. Freitas Jr in his 1998 paper "A Mechanical Artificial Red Blood Cell: Exploratory Design in Medical Nanotechnology".

The respirocyte is a bloodborne 1-micron-diameter spherical nanomedical device designed by Robert A. Freitas Jr. The device acts as an artificial mechanical red blood cell. It is designed as a diamondoid 1000-atmosphere pressure vessel with active pumping powered by endogenous serum glucose, and can deliver 236 times more oxygen to the tissues per unit volume than natural red cells while simultaneously managing carbonic acidity.

An individual respirocyte consists of 18 billion precisely arranged structural atoms plus 9 billion temporarily resident molecules when fully loaded. An onboard nanocomputer and numerous chemical and pressure sensors allow the device to exhibit behaviors of modest complexity, remotely reprogrammable by the physician via externally applied acoustic signals.

The design calls for twelve pumping stations to be spaced evenly along an equatorial circle. Each station has its own independent glucose-metabolizing powerplant, glucose tank, environmental glucose sensors, and glucose sorting rotors. Each station alone can generate sufficient energy to power the entire respirocyte, and has an array of 3-stage molecular sorting rotor assemblies for pumping O2, CO2, and H2O from the ambient medium into an interior chamber, and vice versa. The number of rotor sorters in each array is determined both by performance requirements and by the anticipated concentration of each target molecule in the bloodstream.

The equatorial pumping station network occupies ~50% of respirocyte surface. On the remaining surface, a universal "bar code" consisting of concentric circular patterns of shallow rounded ridges is embossed on each side, centered on the "north pole" and "south pole" of the device. This coding permits easy product identification by an attending physician with a small blood sample and access to an electron microscope, and may also allow rapid reading by other more sophisticated medical nanorobots which might be deployed in the future.

The promise of artificial mechanical red cells is that it gives physicians the ability to precisely control saturation curve profiles independently for oxygen and carbon dioxide, either to maximize gas transport efficiency or to meet specialized demand functions imposed by emergency situations, unusual activities, or specific medical treatments.

Respirocytes are an example of molecular nanotechnology, a field of technology still in the very earliest, purely hypothetical phase of development. Current technology is not sufficient to build a respirocyte due to considerations of power, atomic-scale manipulation, immune reaction or toxicity, computation and communication. Creation of this kind of device would require multiple technological breakthroughs. For further information on respirocytes, see e.g. this essay by Freitas.

This question asks: Before 1 January 2035, will 'artificial red blood cells' with broadly the functionality described by Freitas be used successfully in any mammal?

Resolves positively upon the publication of an article in a respectable scientific journal indicating that such devices have been successfully used in a living mammal to meaningfully augment and or replace (partially or totally) the existing supply of red blood cells. A meaningful augmentation is an augmentation resulting in a non-trivial increase in overall performance of the existing red cell population. These respirocytes will need to be perform at least some gas transport function, and be principally the product of nanotechnology techniques, including (but not limited to) those outlined by Freitas' article. This therefore excludes transfusions of modified red blood cells from existing organisms. Finally, the mammal needs to survive at least 7 days after the introduction of the respirocytes.


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