Scientists at Bristol University in the United Kingdom have published “promising” results in the Nature Communications journal on the laboratory production of red blood cells. Earlier research was hampered by an ineffective protocol, which produced only a small number of mature blood cells from stem cells. The English team has significantly improved these results by adding a stage. They have produced immortalised erythroid cell lines from adult stem cells – a type of “premature red blood cell that can be cultivated indefinitely”. These premature cells can then be cultivated on an industrial scale before being differentiated into mature red blood cells. The first human transfusion trial is scheduled for the end of 2017.
If the clinical trials prove conclusive, this would be a “safe source of transfusion for subjects with rare blood groups and those living in parts of the world where blood supplies are inadequate”. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of transmission of infectious diseases.