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.
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.