Researchers have claimed that they may be able to develop a new generation of synthetic blood substitutes to be used in patients by capitalizing on worms' ability of carrying large amounts of oxygen in their hemoglobin.
The hemoglobin found in earth and sea worms carries about 50 times more oxygen than human blood, prompting University of California researchers in San Diego to examine the potential to replicate the same oxygen-carrying capacity in artificial blood.
Hemoglobin found in human red blood cells transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.
Prof Amy Tsai, who is studying worm blood with Prof Pedro Cabrales at the University of California, said only two hemoglobin blood substitutes were currently commercially available, in Russia and Mexico.
One has also been approved for use in South Africa, she said.
However, Prof Tsai said the need for blood substitutes would increase as the population ages.
"There's going to be a shortage of blood soon as everyone ages and less people can donate. We need to have some other alternative," News.com.au quoted Prof Tsai as telling a news agency at the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) conference.
Artificial blood could be used in the military or in rural and remote regions - where securing blood supplies quickly was difficult - without the need for matching blood types, she added.