Blood transfusions can be made safe by decreasing reactive immune responses caused by frequent transfusions. This is very helpful in patients who have thalassemia or sickle cell disease and those who require regular blood transfusions. Immune responses can be decreased by CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool. The finding of this study is published in the Journal of EMBO Molecular Medicine.
While most people can safely receive a blood transfusion from donated blood, patients with blood disorders such as thalassemia or sickle cell disease require frequent transfusions. With repeated transfusion, patients eventually develop an immune response to all but the most specifically matched donor blood due to incompatibility at the level of minor blood group antigens.
Using CRISPR-Cas9 mediated gene editing, the team of scientists based at the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit (NIHR BTRU) in red cell products, BrisSynBio Centre and NHS Blood and Transplant in Bristol created individual cell lines in which specific blood group genes were altered to prevent the expression of blood group proteins that can cause immune reactions.
This study, published this week in the prestigious EMBO Molecular Medicine journal provides the first proof of principle demonstration that gene editing can be used in combination with laboratory culture of red blood cells to generate rare or customized red blood cells for patients with specific needs. While the authors are keen to stress the many challenging technical obstacles that must be overcome before this approach could be translated to a clinical product, the work does provide an exciting window into the possible applications of red blood cells produced from gene edited cell lines.
Dr. Ashley Toye Director of the Bristol NIHR BTRU said: "Blood made using genetically edited cells could one day provide compatible transfusions for a group of patients for whom blood matching is difficult or impossible to achieve within the donor population. However, much more work will still be needed to produce blood cells suitable for patient use."