The need to develop a blood substitute is now urgent because of the increasing concern over Europe's BSE outbreak and the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic, which have cut blood supplies. Extracellular soluble hemoglobin has long been studied for its possible use as a safe and effective alternative to blood transfusion, but this has met with little success. Clinical trials have revealed undesirable side effects-oxidative damage and vasoconstriction-that hamper the application of cell-free hemoglobin as a blood substitute. We have addressed these problems and have found a new promising extracellular blood substitute: the natural giant extracellular polymeric hemoglobin of the polychaete annelid Arenicola marina. Here we show that it is less likely to cause immunogenic response; its functional and structural properties should prevent the side effects often associated with the administration of extracellular hemoglobin. Moreover, its intrinsic properties are of interest for other therapeutic applications often associated with hemorrhagic shock (ischemia reperfusion, treatment of septic shock and for organ preservation prior to transplantation). Moreover, using natural hemoglobin is particularly useful since recombinant DNA techniques could be used to express the protein in large quantities.