In the world’s first clinical trials, scientists transferred lab-grown red blood cells to two patients, without any unwanted side effects.
These cells, which take three weeks to form, could revolutionize blood transfusions for patients with blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease, and those with rare blood types, for whom it may be difficult to obtain good donor blood.
The blood cells made in the laboratory were grown from stem cells from donors, and transferred in quantities of 5-10 ml (about 1 to 2 teaspoons) to the volunteers.
The trial aims to study the lifespan of cells cultured in a laboratory versus a standard infusion of red blood cells from the same donor.
Lab-grown blood cells are expected to perform better than donated red blood cells because the manufactured blood cells are fresh, meaning that patients who need blood regularly may not need blood transfusions as often.
“This challenging and exciting experiment is a huge stepping stone to making blood from stem cells,” said Ashley Toy, professor of cell biology at the University of Bristol and director of the blood and red cell products transplantation unit at the National Institute of Human Rights.
“We hope that red blood cells cultured in our lab will last longer than those that come from blood donors,” Cedric Jeffert, Professor of Transfusion Medicine and Consultant Hematology at Cambridge University and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) explained.
“If our trial, the first of its kind in the world, is successful, this means that patients who currently need regular long-term blood transfusions will need fewer transfusions in the future, helping to change their care.”
The blood donations were taken from the NHSBT’s blood donation base, for the experiment and the stem cells were separated from their blood. These stem cells were then grown to produce red blood cells in a laboratory at the NHSBT’s Advanced Treatment Unit in Bristol.
It is expected that at least 10 volunteers will receive two small transfusions at least four months apart, which will include one of the donated model red cells and one of the red cells cultured in the laboratory.
This will allow scientists to study whether “young” red blood cells made in the laboratory last longer than cells made in the body.
Dr Farrukh Shah, medical director for blood transfusion at NHSBT, said: “Patients who require regular or intermittent blood transfusions may develop antibodies against small blood groups, making it difficult to find donor blood that can be transfused without the risk of a possible reaction. life threatening.”
This world-leading research lays the groundwork for the manufacture of red blood cells, which can be used safely for blood transfusions for people with disorders such as sickle cell.
Normal blood donations will still be required to provide the vast majority of blood. But the potential for transfusion patients to benefit from this work is critical.
More trials are needed before its clinical use in patients. However, the scientists said this research was an important step toward the future of using synthetic red blood cells to improve treatments in patients with rare blood types or those with complex transfusion needs.