Major breakthrough could power mass production of blood

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Using stem cells, the team told the news service that they had "grown liters" of red cells in their lab. Safety trials are planned for later this year, the report said.

A team of researchers at the University of Bristol made a major breakthrough in the creation of artificial blood cells that could one day lead to mass production of blood. Red blood cells can be produced in the lab, but the problem is the scale. So it will mostly use by people with rare blood types.

At present, artificial blood was only possible to produce by growing donated stem cells directly into blood cells.

However, each cell eventually burns out and produces no more than 50,000 red blood cells.

Dr Jan Frayne, from the University of Bristol, said: 'Previous approaches to producing red blood cells have relied on various sources of stem cells which can only presently produce very limited quantities. "By taking an alternative approach we have generated the first human immortalized adult erythroid line [Bristol Erythroid Line Adult or BEL-A], and in doing so, have demonstrated a feasible way to sustainably manufacture red cells for clinical use from in vitro culture".

Prof Anstee added: "The first therapeutic use of a cultured red cell product is likely to be for patients with rare blood groups, because suitable conventional red blood cell donations can be hard to source". "Cultured red blood cells have advantages over donor blood, such as reduced risk of infectious disease transmission".

NHS Blood and Transplant needs to collect 1.5 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients across England and the ongoing need for life saving blood donations remains.

Artificial blood has a number significant benefits over donated blood. "The first therapeutic use of a cultured red cell product is likely to be for patients with rare blood groups because suitable conventional red blood cell donations can be hard to source".

'The intention is not to replace blood donation but provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups'.

Dr. Jan Frayne, one of the researchers from the group, said: "We have developed a feasible way to sustainably produce red cells for clinical goal".