Immortal Stem Cells Allow Scientists To Produce Unlimited Blood Supply

Posted: Mar 26 2017, 9:53am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 26 2017, 10:45am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
New Discovery Allows Scientists to Produce Unlimited Blood Supply
Image of expending cells since immortalisation. Credit: University of Bristol

Researchers have generated the first immortalized cell lines which allow larger-scale production of red blood cells

Scientists have developed a new technique to cultivate immortalized cell lines in the lab which will one day lead to unlimited blood supply.

The discovery will help tackle the increasing demand of blood for people with rare blood types and the areas of the world where blood supplies are inadequate or unsafe.

The shortage of blood is a massive problem worldwide. Currently, the only way to produce artificial blood is to grow donated stem cells directly into mature blood cells. However that method produces limited number of red cells and requires repeat donations for maintaining its function.

To solve the problem, researchers from University of Bristol have used an alternative approach. By immortalizing early-stage stem cells, they cultured safer and larger amount of red cells. The new technique allows indefinite production of red cells that was not possible before.

“Previous approaches to producing red blood cells have relied on various sources of stem cells which can only presently produce very limited quantities. By taking an alternative approach we have generated the first human immortalized adult erythroid lines and in doing so, have demonstrated a feasible way to sustainably manufacture red cells for clinical use from in vitro culture,” said study researcher Dr Jan Frayne.

“Globally, there is a need for an alternative red cell product. Cultured red blood cells have advantages over donor blood, such as reduced risk of infectious disease transmission.”

The clinical trials in humans will be conducted in 2017. This will be first trials on humans. Until now artificial blood has only been tested on laboratory mice.

The first trials will invovle cultured red cells from stem cells in a normal blood donation, not laboratory produced red blood cells. With this technique, researchers are not aiming to replace human donation, but to provide assistance in saving and improving lives of patients with specific blood groups and rare diseases.

“Scientists have been working for years on how to manufacture red blood cells to offer an alternative to donated blood to treat patients. The first therapeutic use of a cultured red cell product is likely to be for patients with rare blood groups because suitable conventional red blood cell donations can be difficult to source,” said Professor Dave Anstee from National Institute for Health Research.

“The patients who stand to potentially benefit most are those with complex and life-limiting conditions like sickle cell disease and thalassemia, which can require multiple transfusions of well-matched blood. The intention is not to replace blood donation but provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups.”

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