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Japan to Make Urgent Care Blood Products for Self-Defense Forces

Blood loss is a major cause of battlefield deaths. The defense ministry plans to make blood products fit for all types, allowing swifter treatment of injuries.



The Japanese Ministry of Defense in Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. (©Sankei by Katsuyuki Seki)

On February 21, the Japanese Ministry of Defense announced its plan to manufacture whole blood products. They will be infused with platelets for hemostatic effects and will be compatible across all blood types. 

These products are intended for transfusions among Japan Self-Defense Force troops injured in crises, especially in remote island scenarios. The initiative aims to mitigate the risk of incompatible transfusions during chaotic frontline situations. It will also expedite life-saving measures by enabling transfusions without the need for blood type testing.

Boost Survival Rates

A panel of experts was convened by the defense ministry to address transfusions for war-related injuries. The panel issued a proposal describing the whole blood products as "extremely useful."

However, these products currently lack domestic pharmaceutical approval. Therefore, the defense ministry intends to collaborate with the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare to authorize their exceptional use by the Self-Defense Forces.

According to the defense ministry, blood loss is a major cause of battlefield fatalities. It underscored the crucial role of swift transfusions in boosting survival rates. 

Currently, the Self-Defense Forces procure blood products customized to specific blood types from the Japanese Red Cross Society.

However, confirming the blood type of injured troops on the frontlines can be challenging, especially on remote islands with limited medical facilities. Moreover, blood products from the Japanese Red Cross Society alone may not be sufficient in some situations.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida inspects the troops after an aerial review ceremony at Air Self-Defense Force Iruma Base in Saitama Prefecture. November 11, 2023. (©Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

Pharmaceutical Approval

In December 2022, the defense ministry released its Defense Buildup Program, emphasizing the need for the Self-Defense Forces to "autonomously secure and stockpile blood products" essential for transfusions.

The defense ministry plans to manufacture whole blood products using low titer blood type O, which reduces the risk of adverse reactions in recipients with different blood types. The entire process, from blood collection to transfusion, will be carried out by the Self-Defense Forces. The blood will also be donated by Self-Defense Force members.

The blood products will be able to be stored for up to three weeks at temperatures between 2–4°C (around 36–39°F). Considerations regarding the timing and volume of production will be made in due course. The defense ministry also aims to obtain pharmaceutical approval for these products in the future.

Furthermore, the ministry will begin producing and stockpiling frozen red blood cell products with a longer shelf life than conventional products.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun

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