The growing problem of blood shortages only comes to prominence during natural disasters, or when the need is especially dire. Patients undergoing surgery that might require pints of blood are always at risk.
Combining stem cell techniques with the latest genome editing strategies, scientists have developed a method to manufacture artificial red blood cells. Additionally, these ‘super cells’ carry out the critical oxygen-ferrying duties of blood, at volumes even greater than current methods typically yield.
Dr. Vijay Sankaran, assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, and his team performed genetic surgery on blood stem cells, increasing the odds they become red blood cells. They found that turning off a particular gene that’s linked to lower numbers of red cells boosted the red blood cell count.
“We know that if we can make these cells, and improve upon the process, hopefully future blood shortages will not be a problem at all,” says Sankaran.
With this success of this technique, Sankaran feels the application can be applied to other cells types that we might need to generate in greater volume, including muscle and nerve cells destroyed by disease.
“We can imagine other cell types we want to produce in regenerative medicine where we can get increased yields of cells,” he said.