Red Blood Cells Can Now Be Synthetically Created Using Stem Cells

A team of researchers from Britain have managed to create red blood cells in the laboratory using stem cells, but it will take years for this breakthrough to supply blood to the hospitals.

Bristol, UK:Scientists have been working on creating red blood cells in the laboratory for over decade, hoping this could settle the shortage of blood reserve, especially for those rare blood groups. A group of British researchers have come up with a new medical breakthrough for artificially creating red blood cells.

The findings published by them on the Journal of Nature Communications in May, 2017 have given new hope to doctors worldwide and is expected to put into extensive use in a few years to come. The American Red Cross Association, who were also on the same line of research, quoted that this technology can produce billions of red blood cells using just a drop or two of blood.

Jan Frayne, one of the leading researchers of stem cells and a biochemist from the University of Bristol has said, “When the cells were let to continually divide for a year, we were quite excited with the result.” Dr. Harvey Klein, chief of NIH at the Department of Transfusion Medicine, quoted that, “This is a huge leap forward because you can actually grow your own blood in the laboratory and need not worry about shortage of rare blood types.”

Frayne and her fellow researchers took up this research in the June of 2015 and they tried infecting the stem cells with a few cancerous genes to boost blood cell multiplication. Inserting the human papilloma virus (HVP)cancerous genes into the bone marrow created enough red blood cells, capable of multiplying itself infinite number of times.

These cervical cancerous cells were extracted from a patient named Lacks, who passed away in 1951 but the cells are still multiplying in the laboratories today. Frayne called these self-multiplying red blood cells “immortal,” because they have been multiplying even since they were extracted.

The red blood cells eventually expel the nucleus, while they mature; giving the multiplied cells their signature dimples, round shape. These multiplied cells were carefully filtered from the cancerous cells so that only the red blood cells remained. Frayne said that there’s no need for an invasive bone biopsy for extracting these stem cells. A small number of these stem cells can be extracted during a normal blood donation, and it can be used for multiplying the existing red blood cells.

Frayne and her team of had already tried this and created two new immortal cell lines using this technique. “It’s a brilliant approach, and they have actually solved one of the severe bottlenecks in medical science,” said Dr. Robert Lanza, one of the chief doctors at the Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Frayne also said that by the end of this year they would begin the first human trials for this red blood multiplication, though the immortal cells from their laboratories will not be used. She also said that producing new red blood cells under industry standards would take some time and can’t be expected until a few more years.

But what if some cancerous cells escape into the regenerated red blood cells? Dr. Lanza said that while dealing with huge number of blood cells some escapees are bound to get mixed up with the regenerated cells. But these cancerous cells are highly unlikely to give rise to any form of cancer because by the time they get transfused any living cancerous nuclei will die.

This new medical revolution will very soon hit the medical market and in the few years to come will also address the requirement for rare blood types.