Lab-grown blood cells give hope to donor patients after they have been successfully transfused
- The red blood cells, which take three weeks to make in a lab, could be a lifeline for people with advanced cancer or sickle cell disease
- Researchers suspect lab-grown cells last longer after transfusions
- Could mean people need fewer transfusions, which would reduce iron overload
Lab-grown red blood cells have been transfused into two patients in a world’s first clinical trial.
The cells, which take three weeks to create, could be a lifeline for people with advanced cancer or sickle cell disease.
Because they regularly require transfusions from many donors, they are more likely to have a reaction to one of them, which can make them intolerant of transfusions of all the blood in that group.
dr. Farrukh Shah, of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: ‘The need for normal blood donations to provide the vast majority of blood will remain. But the potential that this work will benefit patients who are difficult to transfuse is very significant.’
Next, researchers will test whether the lab-grown red blood cells, made with the stem cells from regular donated blood, stay in the body longer after transfusions than standard donated blood, meaning people need fewer transfusions.
Lab-grown red blood cells have been transfused into two patients in a world’s first clinical trial. (Stock Image)
Ashley Toye, professor of cell biology at the University of Bristol who led the groundbreaking project, said: ‘This challenging and exciting trial is a huge stepping stone for blood production from stem cells.
“This is the first time lab-grown blood from an allogeneic donor has been transfused and we’re excited to see how well the cells are performing at the end of the clinical trial.”
To make the lab-grown cells, researchers used blood from regular donors.
They removed stem cells, which can become any cell in the body.
A special chemical ‘soup’ of nutrients was used to induce the cells to become red blood cells – creating a much larger supply of the same blood type as the original donor.
People with sickle cell disease are more likely to be black and there is currently a shortage of black blood donors, so the lab-grown cells can be a valuable resource.
To make the lab-grown cells, researchers used blood from regular donors. (Stock Image)
Because they are grown fresh in the lab and all cells are produced at the same time, researchers suspect they can stay in the body longer after transfusions compared to standard donated blood.
If lab-grown blood lasts longer, using it could mean that people need fewer transfusions.
Researchers say this would reduce iron overload from frequent blood transfusions, which can lead to serious complications.
The cells can also be used for people with rare blood type types.
A minimum of 10 people will then receive two mini-transfusions, at least four months apart, of both lab-grown cells and standard donated red blood cells.
This allows scientists to find out whether the young red blood cells made in the lab last longer than the cells made in the body.