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Home HEALTH Lab-made blood could have huge potential for people with rare blood diseases

Lab-made blood could have huge potential for people with rare blood diseases



CNN

Scientists have transfused lab-made red blood cells into a human volunteer in a world first trial which experts say has great potential for people with hard-to-match blood types or conditions like sickle cell disease. The research could one day spell the end of lengthy searches for compatible donors or dangerous transfusion reactions.

The experimental transfusion was performed at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, England, as part of a collaborative effort between UK scientists to understand how laboratory-made blood transfusions might work.

The scientists took everything donor blood in a UK database and separated the stem cells. These are the raw materials of the body: the cells from which all specialized cells, such as a red blood cell, can be generated.

The researchers grew red blood cells from those stem cells and transfused them into two healthy volunteers.

The transfusions involved only a small amount of blood: the equivalent of one or two teaspoons. A standard blood transfusion would involve hundreds of times that amount.

This stage of the trial involves two mini-transfusions at least four months apart, one with a standard red blood cell donation and the other with lab-made cells from the same donor.

The researchers are closely monitoring the volunteers to determine if the process was safe. They say there have been “no adverse side effects” so far.

They are also looking at how long lab-grown cells last compared to a standard red blood cell infusion. Red blood cells generally last about 120 days, but a standard donation transfusion contains cells that have a variety of ages because the bone marrow continually produces these cells.

Previous tests have shown that the manufactured cells function like normal cells and that these lab-manufactured cells are likely to survive longer overall while in circulation. This study will determine for the first time whether that is true.

More trials will be needed to determine if there might be a clinical use for this lab-grown product.

The research could eventually make a difference for people with sickle cell disease, those who develop antibodies against most donor blood types, or those with genetic disorders in which their body cannot make red blood cells or the blood cells that they produce do not work. right.

Red blood cells are the helper cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues, which use this oxygen to produce energy. The process also generates waste in the form of carbon dioxide, which is carried by red blood cells to the lungs to be exhaled.

With sickle cell disease, also called sickle cell anemia, red blood cells take on a folded shape that can clog tiny blood vessels and cause organ damage and pain. People with sickle cell often need multiple transfusions throughout their lives.

“This world-leading research lays the groundwork for manufacturing red blood cells that can be safely used for transfusion in people with disorders such as sickle cell anemia,” said Dr. Farrukh Shah, study investigator and medical director of transfusion from NHS Blood and Transplantation, he said in a press release. “The need for normal blood donations will continue to provide the vast majority of blood. But the potential for this work to benefit difficult-to-transfuse patients is very significant.”

dr Glenn Ramsey, medical director of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s blood bank and professor of pathology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said he’s had many patients over the years who are extremely difficult to transfuse and would have benefited. of a therapy like the one in this study.

Often, if there is no local blood match, you have to resort to American Rare Blood Donor Program – and even then you won’t always find a suitable donor. In one case, a few Thanksgivings ago, it was so difficult to find a match for a patient that they had to go to a global database and bring in blood from Canada.

“This doesn’t come up very often, and it’s an extreme example, but this would be the kind of problem that these types of cells could try to solve,” said Ramsey, who was not involved in the new research.

He found the job “pretty exciting” and its potential huge.

Scientists have been working on this issue for many years, he said.

“In the future, in the next few years, this could be a way to replace transfusions as we know them,” Ramsey said. “There is still a long way to go to get to that point, but it certainly starts us down the road to see if this will be feasible.”

dr Cheryl Maier, an assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and medical director at Emory’s Center for Transfusion and Cellular Therapies, called the experiment a “really exciting breakthrough.”

She is particularly interested in the possibilities of laboratory-made red blood cells for people with sickle cells.

“There hasn’t been a lot of attention paid to some of these diseases, especially sickle cell anemia, which primarily affects African-American patients, and it can be really frustrating and discouraging that it doesn’t get more attention,” said Maier, who was not involved in this study. study.

“For certain patients, especially sickle cell disease patients or other patients who need some type of chronic transfusion therapy, if you give them incompatible blood, they often have a very strong transfusion reaction,” he said.

The investigation could lay the groundwork for studies of things like platelets, which are often in very short supply, he said. If scientists find that laboratory-made red blood cell products last longer, it could also improve the quality of life for people who would not need to receive transfusions as regularly.

“Even in 2022, there are patients for whom we can hardly find units for them, and their treatment is delayed because we can’t find compatible units for them,” Maier said. “I think it definitely has the ability to revolutionize the way we support some patients who are currently really difficult to care for with blood products.”

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