Tuesday 9 January 2024

Student Research: Insights into Oxygen Delivery

Keble student Julija Rabcuka (DPhil Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, 2021) works at the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics. Her recent research, published in the journal Blood, has challenged notions about oxygen delivery in red blood cells and introduces new insights in the realm of transfusion and transplant medicine.

Until now, medical students were taught that the quality of red cells, specifically their ability to ‘drop off’ oxygen quickly at a tissues, did not impact the oxygenation of the organ. Julija, however, with her collaborators, has found otherwise.

Julija explains, ‘In collaboration with a PhD student and Richard, a surgeon from NDS, we were able to show for the first time that the oxygenation of the organ can become limited when the blood that is used has dysfunctional oxygen unloading – for example, this happens when blood is stored in a blood bank. This discovery necessitates a revision of standard medical and clinical teaching and practice.‘

The research, titled ‘Impaired O2 Unloading from Stored Blood Results in Diffusion-Limited O2 Release at Tissues: Evidence from Human Kidneys’, challenges the belief that effective blood circulation is the only thing that determines oxygen delivery. Focusing on the intrinsic properties of red blood cells, they revealed a range of dysfunctions in the ‘oxygen-unloading’ process, challenging the assumption of rapid oxygen exchange at capillaries.

As we celebrate Julija’s success, we anticipate the continued influence of her research in shaping the future of medical practices and understanding.