Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Artificial blood from stem cells

Pioneering research that is currently being carried out at the University of Edinburgh is proving so successful that within two years, Britons could be injected with artificial blood.

The blood, made from stem cells, would transform blood transfusions by preventing shortages in hospitals and prove a lifesaver in emergency events. It would carry a much lower risk of infection than the real thing and could be given to almost everyone regardless of their blood group.

They have already worked out how to make thousands of millions of red blood cells from stem cells taken from adults’ bone marrow. But with the average blood transfusion containing 2.5million million red blood cells, it just isn’t enough. Cells taken from human embryos in the first days of life are easier to multiply in large numbers but the researchers have so far not managed to make such realistic blood from them. Other possibilities include transforming pluripotent skin cells into red blood cells.

A ready supply of safe blood would also be a boon in developing and third world countries, where thousands of lives are lost unnecessarily each year to conditions such as haemorrhages after child birth.

The main researcher, Professor Turner, predicts that in two to three years, he will be ready to inject a teaspoon of artificial blood into healthy volunteers, in the first British trial of blood made from stem cells. Other researchers are making haemoglobin, the red blood cell protein used to transport oxygen around the body.

Any embryonic stem cells used would be taken from five-day-old embryos left over from IVF treatment and donated to the research project by the patients.


ico.nossy11 said...

"Any embryonic stem cells used would be taken from five-day-old embryos left over from IVF treatment and donated to the research project by the patients." - Reading this really made me question whether we have lost our morals completely. It's a well known fact that stem cells can be obtained through many alternative methods, however nobody's willing to invest money in this field. It's disgraceful that in the 21st century unborn lives are being used as "spare parts".

The wacky scientist said...

Adult stem cells in contrast with embryonic ones can be transplanted directly without genetic modification or pre-treatments. They simply differentiate according to cues from the surrounding tissues and do not give uncontrollable growth or tumours. There is no problem with immune rejection because the cells can be isolated from the patients requiring transplant. And there is no moral objection involved. Better yet, research can be directed towards encouraging adult stem cells to regenerate and damaged tissues in situ.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for "pro-life", but when you're told your son, brother or daughter has an incurable illness you take whatever option is presented to you

The wacky scientist said...

Both of these things are compatible. If you read what i said in the last post, IPS cells have many advantages that embryonic ones lack. You can't just bury your head in the sand and ignore all the other options available. I think it's about time we focused on ETHICAL SCIENCE

Jake93 said...

I thought they'd already developed a fluorocarbon-based artificial blood substitute some 20 years ago. Can anyone shed some light on this?

Lola Méndez Behín said...

I think it was found to have highly toxic effects in many patients, due to the free haemoglobin in the plasma.