Blood donors may no longer be needed as researchers seek to manufacture synthetic blood. As part of a multi-million pound project scientists successfully manufactured type O negative blood out of spare IVF embryo cells. They hope to produce more than two million pints of blood a year.
The reason they are targeting O negative type blood is that type is the universal donor blood type and can be given to anyone needing blood without fear of rejection. This type is only found in 7 per cent of the population.
Producing a blood that could be given to anyone would mean that hospitals would no longer have to stock various types of blood or worry about supplies. It would also be disease free. Right now it costs 500 pounds for a pint of blood to be made ready for use, so the synthetic blood would have to be cost effective to manufacture.
The researchers used left over embryos from a fertility clinic to establish several embryonic stem cell lines. They were then transformed into blood cells of type O negative. The 3 million pound research was funded by Wellcome Trust.
Prof Marc Turner, of Edinburg University and clinical director fo the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, said synthetic blood could transform medicine if made on an industrial scale. He said: “We’ve proved the principle that from these embryonic stem cell lines we can generate red blood cells,”
“The regulators, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the European Medicines Agency, would need to be comfortable that the cells were produced to sufficient quality and safety before they would allow the first studies in humans.”
“If we can crack it with red cells, it takes us a long way. It doesn’t solve it with other tissues but it takes us a long way to cracking it with other tissues, such as liver and so on.”