Sickle cell patients and others who need long-term blood transfusions provided by clinical laboratories and others would benefit most from successful laboratory-grown blood.
The administration of laboratory-grown red blood cells to humans in a clinical study conducted in the United Kingdom (UK) is considered an important step in efforts to supplement the whole blood supply through the development of synthetic blood products. Of interest to clinical laboratory managers who oversee the hospital’s blood bank services, the researchers were able to create this new blood product from pints of normal blood collected from donors.
What has garnered this clinical study more attention is the fact that previous attempts to create synthetic whole blood products have been unsuccessful. For that reason, this new research has raised hopes that lab-grown blood may be just around the corner.
The initiative, known as RESTORE, is a joint research project carried out by UK scientists:
According to the researchers, it is the first clinical trial of its kind carried out in the world. Partial funding for this clinical study was provided by a grant from the NIHR, according to a NHS press release.
Most hospital laboratories also run a blood bank. Therefore, this breakthrough will be of interest to many clinical laboratory managers and blood bankers who are concerned about shortages of blood products. Also, blood products are quite expensive. This research could develop solutions that alleviate the scarce blood supply and reduce the cost of these critical products while improving patient care.
“This research, backed by government investment, represents a breakthrough for patients and means that treatment could be transformed for people with diseases, including sickle cell disease,” he said. Neil O’Brien (above), Minister of State for Health, in an NHS press release. “Once again, this shows that the UK leads the world when it comes to scientific innovation and collaboration, while delivering high-quality care to those who need it most,” he added. If lab-grown products prove clinically viable, medical laboratories in the UK will soon suffer less from the scarcity of available blood. (Photo Copyright: UK Parliament).
Making blood from stem cells
“This world-leading research lays the foundation for the manufacture of red blood cells that can be safely used to transfuse people with disorders such as sickle cell anemia,” said the hematologist. Farrukh Shah, M.D.NHS Medical Director of Transfusion, Blood and Transplantation, said bbc news. “The need for normal blood donations will continue to provide the vast majority of blood. But the potential of this work to benefit difficult-to-transfuse patients is very significant.”
The blood cell manufacturing process begins with a normal donation of half a liter of blood. The researchers then use magnetic beads to select flexible stem cells that can become red blood cells. Those flexible stem cells are grown in large numbers in the lab and then guided to develop into red blood cells.
“This challenging and exciting trial is a great springboard for making blood from stem cells,” he said. Ashley Toye, PhD, Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Bristol in the NHS press release. “This is the first time that blood from a patient has been cultured in the laboratory. allogeneic the donor has received a transfusion and we are excited to see how well the cells perform at the end of the clinical trial.”
The process to create laboratory-grown blood cells takes about three weeks, and a pool of about half a million stem cells can result in 50 billion red blood cells. These cells are then further thinned to harvest around 15 billion red blood cells that are at the optimal level for transplantation into a human patient.
“Some blood groups are extremely rare, to the point where only 10 people in a country can donate blood,” Toye said. bbc news. “We want to produce as much blood as possible in the future, so the vision in my head is a room full of machines continually producing it from a normal blood donation.”
Transforming care for patients who need long-term blood transfusions
To date, only two patients have participated in the clinical trial. Next, the researchers plan to give 10 volunteers two mini transfusions at least four months apart. One transfusion will contain donated traditional red blood cells and the other will consist of cells grown in the laboratory. This experiment will show which blood cells last the longest in the body. Ultimately, the findings could allow a patient to receive fewer transfusions and avoid iron overloadwhich can be a side effect of blood transfusions.
“We hope that our lab-grown red blood cells will last longer than those that come from blood donors,” he said. Dr Cedric Ghevaert, senior professor of transfusion medicine at the University of Cambridge, in the NHS news release. “If our trial, the first of its kind in the world, is successful, it will mean that patients who currently require regular long-term blood transfusions will need fewer transfusions in the future, helping to transform their care.”
Further research and clinical trials will be needed to validate the efficacy and safety of these laboratory-grown blood products. However, such a breakthrough could potentially revolutionize treatments for patients with blood disorders, complex transfusion needs, and rare blood types, as well as lower healthcare costs and curb blood shortages.
At the same time, this technology would also contribute to expanding the supply of useful blood products, a development that would be welcomed by those pathologists and clinical laboratory professionals who oversee blood banks in their respective hospitals and integrated delivery networks (IDNs).