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Research Has Found a Way to Manufacture… Blood?

manufactured blood

No, the vampires haven’t taken ever the world. This is the stuff of science fiction: Research into stem cells has led to the possibility of manufacturing human blood.

As reported by The Telegraph, not only has research into re-engineering the human led to 3D printed organs and bionic limbs, now the production of blood on an industrial scale could become a reality once a trial is conducted in which artificial blood made from human stem cells is tested in patients for the first time.

The program, funded by the scientific charity foundation Wellcome Trust, has found a way to take cells from humans and have “rewound” them into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The cells are then introduced into conditions similar to the human body and coded into mature red blood cells—specifically type O blood, the universal donor type.

Professor Marc Turner, head researcher for the program, expects trials to end sometime around the end of 2016. But if the results are what they expect them to be, this new process could revolutionize the way we give blood transfusions. “This is the first time anybody has manufactured blood to the appropriate quality and safety standards for transfusion into a human being,” Prof Turner told The Telegraph.

The program’s techniques highlight the possibility of a limitless supply of manufactured type-O blood, free of disease and compatible with all patients. “Many parts of the world still have problems with transfusing blood,” said Prof Turner, and this new process of bio-engineered blood could lead to a reduction in costs and deaths around the world.

However, as The Telegraph continues on to note, the biggest obstacle to overcome is scaling up the production of this bio-engineered blood to a point that it can reach the demand that hospitals face every day. “A single unit of blood contains a trillion red blood cells,” says Prof. Turner. “There are 2 million units of blood transfused in the UK each year.” Just imagine how much blood the United States goes through in one year.

For the moment, giant factories that mass produce gallons of blood are still the stuff of fiction. But this is still a great and important step in the scientific world and the manufacturing world as well. If this new “bio-blood” is effective in human trials and can be ramped up to meet the demand, it would create jobs, lower hospital costs and work towards the noble goal of saving lives.

We’ve also reported on other great stories and breakthroughs in the scientific world that could change life as we know it for the better. Like the 3D printed skull that has saved a woman’s life, or the robotic limbs that give their users a regained sense of touch. All of these stories indicate that it is a great time to be involved in science in this day and age, and that manufacturing can assist in these life-saving creations!

The stuff of fiction remains fiction unless you’re willing to put in the time, effort and ingenuity to make it possible. Let’s hope that this is the first of many steps in the right direction of innovation and scientific breakthrough!

Photo credit: Alamy via The Telegraph

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