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Sugar may double shelf life of platelets

WASHINGTON (AP) — A little dab of sugar may double the shelf life of blood platelets, a lifesaving clotting component that is in chronic short supply because of spoilage.

Harvard University researchers report this week in the journal Science that laboratory tests show that putting a small amount of galactose, a type of sugar, into isolated platelets allows the blood components to be refrigerated and usefully preserved for at least 12 days.

That more than doubles the shelf life of the current routine, which is to store the platelets at room temperature for only five days. Because of spoilage, more than 25 percent of all platelets taken from donated blood must be discarded. Extending the shelf life of platelets would significantly improve the supply, experts say.

Platelets play a central role in forming blood clots, an essential action to prevent uncontrolled bleeding in the body.