News — 01 December 2017
Human blood cells grown in lab

In a revolutionary breakthrough, the stem cells which produce our blood have, for the very frst time, been created in a laboratory. This is a potential solution for treating people who have blood diseases with their own cells. It could significantly decrease the need for bone marrow transplants from donors, and these stem cells could also be used to create blood for transfusions. Head researcher George Daly of Harvard Medical School (US) explains the process, and why it is such an important discovery: “In a healthy adult, the stem cells that create blood are found in the bone marrow where they replenish the supply of red and white blood cells. When these stem cells don’t work properly the body does not have an adequate supply of blood. This can be the result of certain illnesses, or from the chemotherapy used for treating leukaemia and other cancers.” Until now people with these disorders were treated with transplants of bone marrow containing blood stem cells. The bone marrow was obtained from a healthy donor, but the difculty was always fnding a match… and if the donor was not a sibling the chances were one in a million. To solve this problem Daly and his team started with generalised human stem cells – the kind that everyone has in their body. These have the potential to form almost any type of cell. After numerous genetic tests Daly managed to create a process that encourages these general stem cells to become blood stem cells. It is fantastic news for the medical profession as noted by Carolina Guibentif of the University of Cambridge (UK): “This is a very big deal. If we can develop these cells in the lab then we won’t be dependent on donors, and we will also have a great potential source of clean blood for transfusions.”

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