Manufacturing Blood

Gone may be the days when Hospitals have to struggle to maintain a sufficient amount of blood in the blood bank, run blood donation camps, and loose patients simply because they could not get the right blood at the right time. After the discovery of the enzyme that cleaves antigen, now we may have an even better option of producing limitless amount of blood through the use of stem cell technology. Truly mind boggling progress in Medical science!

Scientists have created red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells, in a step that they say could mean an infinite source of blood for transfusions.

According to the American Red Cross, 15 million units of blood are donated in the U.S. each year. Fourteen million units are transfused into Americans every year. The World Health Organization notes that people still die—especially in developing countries—because of an inadequate blood supply.

The team at Worcester, Mass.-based Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) says that if they can develop type-O negative blood—so-called “universal donor” blood because the body’s immune system will not reject it—there could be an inexhaustible supply. They were able to grow type A, type B, and type O blood, but did not make type O negative. ACT’s chief scientific officer Robert Lanza told Wired News that he doesn’t think it will be a problem to make oodles of O negative.

Susan Shurin, deputy director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md., called the new work an “important first step.”

“They’ve grown these in the test tubes and been able to get them to mature so that many aspects of these cells look like [red blood cells] that you make and I make,” she told ScientificAmerican.com. “But they haven’t given them to people and see if they survive.”

There are sugars on the surface of the cells, Shurin explains, that allow them to be recognized by the immune system. If the immune system sees them as risky, it could kill the cells. “There’s still significant work to do,” she says, “but it’s a significant step in the right direction.”

The American Red Cross agreed with Shurin’s assessment, releasing a press statement, calling the work “pioneering,” but also pointing out that the technique “has not progressed to the stage where the cultured cells are fully equivalent” to real red blood cells.

From around the Web:

‘Stem cells can lead to blood farms’Times of India

Skin cells produce library of diseased stem cellsScientific American

Stem cell technology may make blood donations thing of the pastThe Daily Telegraph

Human blood grown from stem cellsThe Australian

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~ by Dr.Zhivago on August 21, 2008.

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