Medical

First transfusions of "manufactured" blood planned for 2016

First transfusions of "manufac...
In the not-too-distant future, blood made with lab-grown red blood cells could be readily available for use in transfusions (Image: Shutterstock)
In the not-too-distant future, blood made with lab-grown red blood cells could be readily available for use in transfusions (Image: Shutterstock)
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In the not-too-distant future, blood made with lab-grown red blood cells could be readily available for use in transfusions (Image: Shutterstock)
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In the not-too-distant future, blood made with lab-grown red blood cells could be readily available for use in transfusions (Image: Shutterstock)

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 107 million blood donations are collected globally every year. Nonetheless, blood is often in short supply – particularly in developing nations. Despite new safeguards, there's also still the risk of incompatibility, or of infections being transmitted from donors to recipients. Charitable organization the Wellcome Trust hopes to address these problems, by developing the ability to manufacture blood outside of the body. Last week, it announced that test subjects should begin receiving transfusions of blood made with lab-grown red blood cells by late 2016.

The research program is being led by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, thanks to the Wellcome Trust's £5 million (US$8.4 million) Strategic Award grant. Institutions collaborating on the project include the University of Glasgow, the University of Edinburgh, Loughborough University, NHS Blood and Transplant, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, Roslin Cells Ltd and the Cell Therapy Catapult, in collaboration with Bristol University and the University of Cambridge.

The project has already created type O- red blood cells that are "fit for clinical transfusion," according to a report in The Telegraph. These were manufactured from induced pluripotent stem cells.

"We must first make the stem cells become a mesoderm – one of the body layers that makes things like muscle, bone and blood – and then get it to turn into blood cells," explained the University of Glasgow's Dr. Joanne Mountford. "Then we have to make it develop into a red blood cell specifically and finally make it eject its nuclei and mature properly."

The choice of type O- is significant, as patients with all other blood types can receive it.

While it is hoped that trials on human patients could begin within three years, there's still plenty of work to be done before so-called "blood factories" are a reality.

"Every single bag of transfused blood has about two trillion red blood cells in it," said Mountford. "It’s a ludicrously high number to make in the lab. We use two million of those bags every year in the UK alone. Ensuring that any industrially produced blood can be made economically viable is quite a task."

Sources: Wellcome Trust, University of Glasgow via The Telegraph

3 comments
JoejustJoe
Ok why the heck are they not using the all ready developed 3d printed bone marrow structure tech, maintain them with a nutrient supply and getting a near endless amount of type o blood? Their system demands Stem cells constantly.
Slowburn
Is this really a better idea than room temperature storage synthetic oxygen carrier.
Twinkle Pandagre
This would be just great for people with really rare type of blood. Wonder how it would work for the patients who require blood transfusion on a regular basis for their life time.