The dire need for blood donors may soon be alleviated as two teams of researchers take one step closer to being able to produce artificial blood in the lab, creating a limitless supply of blood.
The two studies, both published in the journal Nature, is the result of nearly 20 years of research and experiments. Having a limitless blood supply could greatly help patients suffering from different blood disorders and immune conditions that require regular transfusions.
"People have been trying to do this for 20 years unsuccessfully," said Cambridge University's Dr. Caroline Guibentif, who co-wrote a commentary about the two papers, in a report from The Independent. "This is the first time ... they have got cells that can self-renew and give rise to all sorts of blood cells, so of course it's a big step towards the goal, but we are not quite there yet."
On the first study, the researchers were able to turn stem cells into blood stem cells that have the ability to produce different types of human blood. On the other hand, the second team of researchers successfully turned adult cells from mice and turn it into mouse blood stem cells. Interestingly, when the artificial mouse blood stem cells were given to mouse models with no immune system, they regained immune blood cells.
The result of the first study could greatly help patients with genetic blood disorders. Doctors could soon take cells from the patients, genetically correct its defect and make functional blood cells. Scientists could also take cells from universal donors to develop a limitless supply of blood stem cells and blood.
Meanwhile, it the success of the second study is to be replicated in clinical trials, it could provide a way to treat different immune disorders.
Due to the relatively short lifespan of mouse models, the researchers did not detect any adverse side-effects of the artificial blood nor find any traces of cancer. The next step now is to try both methods in clinical trials. Despite the great success of the two studies, experts noted that it could possibly take years before the dream of having limitless blood supply comes into fruition.
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