Fresh Blood By Halloween

23 January 2012

Psycho, The Shining, Seven... these movies are gory, have edge-of-your-seat suspense and just downright frightening. And with the Halloween season just around the corner, they are the hottest DVDs to rent this time of year.

Did You Know?
Alfred Hitchcock famously used Bosco chocolate syrup as fake blood in the movie Psycho

But apart from the haunting music and darkly lit scenes, there is another thing that these movies have in common that characterize them as thrilling horror films: Blood. But there's more to blood than the fact that it oozes and seems to be the sign, at least in horror films, of the end of some innocent victim's life. So just what's blood all about?

Blood 101

The red stuff in your veins is called whole blood and is what keeps you alive. It is important for delivering nutrients and minerals, transporting oxygen and hormones, and removing harmful waste products. Without blood, the human body would stop working.

Did You Know?
To fake bullet shots in movies, small explosive charges are attached to latex "blood bags," filled with a bright red, gelatin-based fluid, and are placed beneath the actor's clothing. When detonated, the bags burst, sending the fluid flying and simulating a gun shot.

There are two main types of cells in your blood. Red blood cells are small disc shaped cells that contain the compound haemoglobin. They carry oxygen to tissues and are responsible for removal of carbon dioxide through the lungs. The other cells, called white blood cells or leukocytes, are the ones that fight infections and diseases.

Unlike the large gash wounds you see in horror films that cause blood to ooze uncontrollably, when you have a minor cut, the bleeding typically stops within a few minutes. This is because of the clotting activity brought on by cell fragments present in the blood known as platelets. Without blood platelets, you would bleed to death.

All of these cells are all suspended in a transparent, straw-coloured liquid called plasma. Plasma makes up 55% of the total blood volume and distributes nutrients to tissues and transports waste products to the lungs, liver and kidneys, which expel them. It also contains many clotting factors.

Did You Know?
Blood products have different shelf live. Platelets last for only 5 days, red blood cells last for only 42 days and plasma can last for up to ten years!

Blood Types

By now you know that the blood you've got running through your veins is vital to sustaining life. There are many situations though, such as car accidents or surgeries, when people need donated blood to stay alive.

You've probably heard that there are different types of blood and that any blood a person receives has to match the blood already in their body. The most well know and medically important blood types are of the ABO blood group which includes A, B, AB and O.

Did You Know?
The first blood bank wasn't created until 1917

These blood types are based on the presence or absence of antigens (specific proteins that stimulate an immune response by causing antibodies to be produced), that are present on the surface of the red blood cells. For example, people with type A have A antigens on the surface of their red cells.

Did You Know?
Blood types weren't discovered until 1900 by Dr. Karl Landsteiner

Blood Donation

When someone donates blood, typically whole blood, small samples are sent for testing while the remainder of the whole blood is shipped to the laboratory and divided into three primary products: plasma, red blood cells and platelets.

This is so the blood can be used for different things. For example, cancer patients often rely on platelets as part of their regular and ongoing treatment, while plasma is often used to treat anyone who has suffered a serious burn or shock. Red blood cells on the other hand are often used in surgeries or if someone is in an accident and has lost a lot of blood.

You might have heard an advertisement saying that "one blood donation can save three lives"; the ability to separate whole blood is why.

Did You Know?
Different medical procedures require varying amounts of blood. Coronary Artery Bypass may require 1-5 units of blood, whereas a liver transplant can use up to 100 units!

So the next time that you slip in a movie like The Silence of the Lambs or some other horror flick into your DVD player, you'll know that blood is more than just a red gory fluid — it's a fluid full of life!

Learn More!

Canadian Blood Services: As Count Dracula might say, "We want your blood." Information on Donations, Volunteering and More!

F Hema-Quebec

What's Your Type?

Can your blood type determine your personality and careers? Click to find out.

How to Make Fake Blood like in the Movies!

Even though she talks and writes about blood every day, Jennifer still has trouble looking at her own. She uses her BA in Communications from Simon Fraser to raise awareness about blood donation as the Communications Specialist at Canadian Blood Services, B.C. & Yukon.


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