The University of Bristol and National Health Service (NHS) Blood and Transplant have developed a new method to manufacture red blood cells (RBC).
The researchers have produced lines of immortalised cells to allow manufacture of RBC in a more efficient scale.
It is expected that upon successfully clinical trial evaluation of the research results, a safe source can be established for transfusions for people with rare blood types, as well as in areas where blood supplies are deficient or unsafe.
The previous method of growing donated stem cells into mature RBC is reported to generate small number of mature cells and to need repeat donations.
The new reproducible method aims at addressing this concern and facilitates the production of immortalised erythroid cell lines from adult stem cells.
The premature red cells can then be cultured indefinitely on a large-scale prior to differentiation into mature RBC.
NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit in Red Cell Products director professor Dave Anstee said: “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.
"The intention is not to replace blood donation but provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups.”
The NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit in Red Cell Products is a collaboration between the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant.
Cultured at the University of Bristol and at NHS Blood and Transplant’s Filton site, the red cells will be investigated in different clinical trials.
Set to start by the end of this year, the first trial will utilise manufactured red cells from stem cells in a normal blood donation.
Image: The immortalised early erythroid cells. Photo: courtesy of University of Bristol.