First blood to be produced from stem cells expected by 2016

16 Apr 2014

A joint effort from scientists in the UK and Ireland expects to have a number of volunteers ready to use the first artificially grown blood from stem cells by 2016.

The Wellcome Trust said the consortium of researchers will continue the research and development of the artificial blood after they receive about €6m worth of new funding.

The consortium will be using pluripotent stem cells, which are able to form any other cell in the body.

The development team will guide these cells in the lab to multiply and become fresh red blood cells for use in humans, with the hope of making the process scalable for manufacture on a commercial scale. The team hopes to start the first in-man trial by late 2016.

The development of accessible artificial blood would be a major breakthrough in medicine, as Irish transfusion services across the world continuously need donations from people to meet demand across varied blood types.

Dr Mark Murphy of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service told The Irish Times the development of stem cell-cultured blood is incredibly important. “It is very significant. The main driver is that in time, making blood in this way could become less expensive.

“It costs about €500 per unit to collect blood from donors and have it available in hospitals, but this should fall,” he said. “But the ancillary benefits are more valuable. This blood will be much fresher and so the clinical effects should be better.”

Blood cells image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic