Stem Cells Key to Blood Production
By using stem cells scientists have found a way to increase the production of red blood cells, according to Anthony Atala, editor of the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, in an August 2 news release. This discovery could significantly increase the blood supply needed for blood transfusions, the researchers said, and their methods can be used to produce any blood type. Currently, the blood needed for life-saving transfusions is obtained only through donations. As a result, blood can be in short supply, particularly for those with rare blood types.
Being able to produce red blood cells from stem cells has the potential to overcome many difficulties of the current system, including sporadic shortages, " said Atala, who is also director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. "This team has made a significant contribution to scientists' quest to produce red blood cells in the lab.
Researcher Eric Bouhassira, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, explained how the process works. "We combined different cell-expansion protocols into a 'cocktail' that increased the number of cells we could produce by 10 to 100-fold."
The researchers produced a higher yield of red blood cells by using stem cells from cord blood and circulating blood as well as embryonic stem cells, according to the release.
Bouhassira added, "The ability of scientists to grow large quantities of red blood cells at an industrial scale could revolutionize the field of transfusion medicine. Collecting blood through a donation-based system is serving us well but it is expensive, vulnerable to disruption and insufficient to meet the needs of some people who need ongoing transfusions. This could be a viable long-term alternative."