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Blood transfusion is the process of transferring blood or blood products from one person to another to replace missing components of their blood.

Blood transfusion is a potentially life saving process where donated blood or components of blood are given intravenously to someone to replace lost blood or blood products. People can need a blood transfusion for a number of reasons, including severe bleeding, blood loss through surgery, or anemia.

Scientists have long been interested in blood and the role it plays in the body. William Harvey first described a more accurate accounting of the circulation of blood in the early 1600s. In 1665, the first record of a successful attempt at a blood transfusion was written by Richard Lower, a doctor working at the Royal Society. He cut the neck of a dog, letting it bleed until the dog was very weak. He then revived the animal by giving it blood from another dog. He wrote that the dog made a full recovery.

The first transfusion from an animal to a human occurred in 1667 when Jean-Baptiste Denis successfully transfused blood from a sheep to a 15-year-old. Denis attempted blood transfusions from other animals to humans with little success. In 1818, James Blundell successfully transfused human blood from a husband to his wife after she hemorrhaged during childbirth.

In 1900, Karl Landsteiner discovered the first three human blood groups, which he called A, B and C. Group C became O and a fourth type, called AB, was added in 1902. Early blood transfusions required blood to be transfused directly from donor to receiver. In the early 20th century, anticoagulants and refrigeration meant blood could be preserved for longer, bringing the advent of blood banks. The first blood donor program was started by the British Red Cross in 1921. Volunteers were called upon to donate blood at clinics around London. Donors were given tests to determine their blood type and then blood was taken. The program was rolled out in other cities in the UK before other cities around the world set up similar systems.

Blood can also be separated into its components through a process known as fractionation. Blood is separated into components such as red cells, plasma and platelets. This allows blood donations to be used more effectively and help more than one patient.

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