Lab-grown red blood cells transfused to patient in world’s first clinical trial

Lab-grown red blood cells have been transfused into a person in a world-first clinical trial.

If proven to be safe and effective, engineered blood cells could revolutionize treatments for people with blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and rare blood types.

Finding well-matched blood donations can be difficult for many people with these disorders – and lab-grown red blood cells would mean people who need regular transfusions may need fewer in the future.

Ashley Toye, Director of the NIHR Blood and Transplant Unit in Red Blood Cell Products, said: “This challenging and exciting trial is a huge stepping stone for making blood from stem cells.

“This is the first time that lab-grown blood from an allogeneic donor has been transfused and we are excited to see how well the cells are performing at the end of the clinical trial.”

The manufactured blood cells were cultured from donor stem cells and then transfused into volunteers in the Restore randomized controlled clinical trial.

It examines the lifespan of cells grown in the laboratory compared to infusions of standard red blood cells from the same donor.

Because the lab-grown blood cells are all fresh, researchers expect them to perform better than a similar transfusion of standard donated red blood cells.

Cedric Ghevaert, professor of transfusion medicine and consultant haematologist at the University of Cambridge and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), said: “If our trial, the first of its kind in the world, is successful, it will mean that patients who currently need regular long-term blood transfusions will need fewer transfusions at the future, which will help transform their care. “

So far, two people have received lab-grown red blood cells with no adverse side effects.

The amount of lab-grown cells infused varies but is around 5-10ml – about one to two teaspoons.

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Donors from the NHSBT Blood Donor Base donated blood for the test and the stem cells were separated.

These stem cells were then grown to produce red blood cells in a laboratory at NHSBT’s Advanced Therapies Unit in Bristol.

A minimum of 10 people will receive two mini-transfusions at least four months apart, one of donated standard red blood cells and one of lab-grown red blood cells.

This will allow scientists to know if young red blood cells made in the laboratory last longer than cells made in the body.

Further trials are needed before clinical use, but the scientists say the research marks an important step in improving the treatment of patients with rare blood types or complex transfusion needs.

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