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Red blood cells from IPS cells: 1st clinical trial in 2016

Publié le : 16 April 2014

 Scientists in the United Kingdom and Ireland have discovered a way of developing red blood cells in the laboratory from IPS cells. They are currently preparing to carry out the first clinical trial in 2016 or early 2017. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. The Consortium, led by the Scottish National Blood Transplantation Service (SNBTS), includes Irish, English and Scottish scientists and is financed by the Wellcome Trust.

The process involves producing red blood cells from adult stem cells present in donor skin (fibroblasts), which are then reprogrammed. The advantage of this method is that blood cells obtained using this technique have a longer lifespan than those provided by blood donors, which does not exceed 120 days. Furthermore, “this blood would be fresher and would have better clinical effects”, explained Professor William Murphy (Dublin).

In the long run, the aim of these scientists is to extend the use of donated blood over a period of 20 years. In fact, the red blood cells obtained from IPS cells could be used to “treat every situation in which patients cannot produce their own healthy red blood cells”.

The scientists initially used human embryo stem cells but now prefer to work with induced pluripotent cells (IPS), which possess the same properties as the former but do not raise any ethical issues. Another considerable advantage with IPS is that red blood cells “compatible with 95% of the population from all safety perspectives” can be produced by collecting skin cells from a person belonging to the O negative blood group.


The clinical trials will focus on 3 patients presenting with thalassaemia – a blood anomaly warranting frequent transfusions.

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