In a first-of-its-kind clinical trial in the world, scientists transferred red blood cells, created in the laboratory, to two patients, without unwanted side effects. These cells, which took about three weeks to form, could revolutionize the world of blood transfusions, for patients with sickle cell anemia, and those with rare blood types, for whom it may be a difficult problem to receive a donation.
The blood cells created in the laboratory were taken from the stem cells of donors, and transferred to volunteers in amounts of 5-10 ml. The purpose of the experiment was to investigate the lifespan of the cells, compared to a standard transfusion of red blood cells from the same donor. The blood cells created in the laboratory are expected to function well More than the donated blood cells, because the blood cells produced are fresher, meaning that patients who need blood regularly may not need blood transfusions as often.
Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Bristol, and Director of the Blood Transplantation Unit at the National Institute for Human Rights, Ashley Toysaid that “the challenging and exciting experiment is a huge milestone for introducing blood from stem cells”. Cedric Jaffert, professor of transfusion medicine at the University of Cambridge emphasized that “we hope that red blood cells created in our laboratory will last longer than those that come from blood donors.” Professor Jaffert added that “if our experiment, the first of its kind in the world, is successful, it means that patients who currently need regular long-term blood transfusions will need fewer transfusions in the future, which will help change their treatment.”
During the trial, blood donations were taken from the NHSBT Blood Donation Base in Bristol. After that, the stem cells were grown to produce red blood cells in the special laboratory. According to the researchers, later in the experiment, at least ten volunteers will receive two small transfusions at least four months apart, each of which will include a sample of the donated red cells, and one of the red cells cultured in the laboratory. Thus, it will allow scientists to investigate whether the red cells produced in the laboratory last longer than cells produced in the body.
The current research lays the foundation for the production of red blood cells, which can be safely used for blood transfusions for people with various diseases. Regular blood donations will still be required to supply the vast majority, but the current research’s potential to benefit many is critical.