British researchers have transfused healthy volunteers with lab-grown blood for the first time, in a groundbreaking study that could revolutionize treatments for people with blood problems. Ashley Toye, an academic from the English University of Bristol, declared in a statement released on Monday that this clinical trial “is a great step towards making blood from stem cells”, although he specifies that more studies will be needed to verify the feasibility of the process.
So far, a couple of people have received transfusions of laboratory-grown red blood cells -the equivalent of 1 or 2 teaspoons of blood- in the so-called RESTORE study, which involves several British universities and health organizations. Both people were closely monitored and no adverse side effects were detected, the statement said.
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As part of the clinical trial, a minimum of 10 participants will receive 2 mini-transfusions at least 4 months apart, one of donated normal red blood cells and one of those grown in the laboratory. The experiment tries to determine the useful life of young cells grown in the laboratory, compared to standard transfusions from donors, which contain cells of different ages.
The researchers note that if laboratory-grown blood cells are found to last longer in the body, “it is possible that patients who need blood regularly would not require transfusions as frequently”. The blood cells were made from stem cells from donors recruited from the UK National Health Service (NHS) database.
The authors maintain that red blood cell culture could “revolutionize treatments for people with blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia or with unusual blood types”.