A team of researchers that has been growing red blood cells from pluripotent stem cells has received a grant to trial the cultured cells in humans. Victoria Turk has the details:
The first three volunteers will receive some of the lab-cultured red blood cells before the end of 2016, and the goal is to eventually go mainstream. Think full-scale “blood factories,” according to the Telegraph. I spoke to Jo Mountford, one of the scientists working on producing the cells at the University of Glasgow who also works with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. She explained that their aim had been to create red blood cells that were “the closest thing possible to a red cell you would take from a donor,” but made in a dish rather than taken from someone’s arm.
Liat Clark looks at the potential advantages of manufactured blood cells:
The aim is to target smaller markets where the blood is necessary for therapeutic benefits first, in the lead up to mass manufacturing. Once efficacy is proven at that scale, it could be used more universally for trauma in the future. It also means the risk of transmitting infections is extinguished, and we will no longer be faced with the waste of disposing of supplies 35 days after they are donated.
“In the long term we would hope to deliver it to many parts of the world where they don’t have access to blood supplies — if we crack the cost issue, it could be a more global solution.”
This is where perhaps the greatest potential lies. In developing countries up to 150,000 women die each year due to blood loss in childbirth. If the process can be scaled up to beat these problems, the possibilities seem endless.