A virtually unlimited blood supply can be achieved through a process of "immortalizing" stem cells at an early stage, according to a new research finding.
The need for more blood donations is a seemingly never-ending problem. Between interruptions to the donation process, fear of needles, rare blood types, and a general lack of awareness, life-saving blood supplies are difficult to stock.
‘The trick is to create "immortalized" premature red blood cells that you can culture as much as you like, making mass production a real possibility.’
Scientists working at the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant recently published their research in the journal Nature.
Through a complicated process, the researchers have found that they can hold the stem cell in its pre-exhausted state and coax it to produce red blood cells indefinitely.
The process is expensive and isn't currently viable for solving the world's blood supply shortages. The team has only produced "liters" of its own product, thus far.
"The intention is not to replace blood donation but provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups," Dr. Dave Anstee, director of the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit at Bristol and NHS, writes in a statement. According to Anstee,
"The patients who stand to potentially benefit most are those with complex and life-limiting conditions like sickle cell disease and thalassemia, which can require multiple transfusions of well-matched blood."
Following clinical trials, the technique would also benefit people with the rarest blood types. Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have the most prevalent occurrence of rare blood types like O Rh positive and B Rh positive.