Artificial Blood Is Patient-Ready

In the midst of news that engineered organs are being implanted into animals and people, researchers announce the creation of artificial blood for transplant.

By | April 16, 2014

FLICKR, ROB PONGSAJAPANA new source of blood could be just around the corner: red blood cells grown from fibroblasts that have been reprogrammed into mature red blood cells in the lab. The blood, developed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS), would be Type O negative, also known as universal donor blood, which currently comprises just 7 percent of the blood donor pool.

“We have made red blood cells that are fit to go in a person’s body,” project leader Marc Turner, medical director at SNBTS, told Forbes. “Before now, we haven’t really had that.”

The blood is created by dedifferentiating fibroblasts from an adult donor and reprogramming them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are then cultured in a bone-marrow-like environment for a month. Blood cells are then extracted from the cell culture. If the technique can be scaled up to industrial levels (which is no trivial task), beyond potentially supplying an endless supply of life-giving blood, the artificial blood would consist entirely of young, healthy, and infection-free cells, avoiding the issues of pathogen contamination that have in the past plagued the donor blood supply.

“Although similar research has been conducted elsewhere, this is the first time anybody has manufactured blood to the appropriate quality and safety standards for transfusion into a human being,” Turner told The Telegraph.

The artificial blood could be transfused into patients in a clinical trial setting as early as 2016, likely for three patients suffering from a genetic disorder called thalassaemia, in which the body makes unusually low levels of hemoglobin—a problem that is treated frequent transfusions.

Correction (April 17): This story has been updated from its original version to correctly reflect that the researchers are deriving blood cells, not serum, from iPSCs, and that the cells themselves are not artificial. The Scientist regrets the errors.

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Avatar of: dgmd


Posts: 1

April 16, 2014

I would forgive this in a layman's media, but this error is flagrant in this venue.

"... the artificial serum would consist entirely of young, healthy, and infection-free cells,..."

Serum is defined as the acellular component of blood, absent "clotting factors" and fibrinogen.

This article refers to erythrocytes derived from dedifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells.

Hopefully, this will be edited.

Avatar of: wctopp


Posts: 110

April 16, 2014

A reasonable first world estimate for the cost of a pint of donated blood is $250. This supply isn't perfect and everyone complains about local shortages from time to time. However this is also a big business employing a ton of people and it's got a lot of intertia plus a feelgood community service aspect. It's probably impossible for cultured cells to beat this price and I see no market "pull" based on manufactured claims that the "blood supply" isn't perfect. Nice science but not a product.

Avatar of: ackermanni


Posts: 1

April 16, 2014

I feel like this will be most useful when there's a streamlined way to make autologous infusions available.

Avatar of: Paul Stein

Paul Stein

Posts: 193

April 17, 2014

These are also real cells, not artificial ones.  Let's correct that mistake right off the bat.

Avatar of: Jef


Posts: 711

Replied to a comment from Paul Stein made on April 17, 2014

April 17, 2014

Very good point, Paul. I have adjusted the text and appended a correction.

Thanks for reading!

Jef Akst, The Scientist

Avatar of: Jef


Posts: 711

Replied to a comment from dgmd made on April 16, 2014

April 17, 2014

Good catch, dgmd. I have made the change and appended a correction.

Thanks for reading!

Jef Akst, The Scientist

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