Artificial blood would solve the problem of lack of availability as well as that of possible infections, now already much more limited than once but still an existing risk, could become a reality within years?
A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh is working to create artificial blood from human stem cells. Clinical trials are already scheduled for the next five years.
The technique would consist of taking stem cells from the adult bone marrow by cultivating them in the laboratory to transform them into cells that function like red blood cells. Once the technique is refined, then it will be possible to take the cells directly from the embryos or from the skin, reprogramming them to grow faster in the laboratory.
This would make more blood available for transfusions and above all it could solve the problem of type 0 negative blood deficiency, which only 7% of the population has but which can be used for universal transfusions.
What is artificial blood
Simplifying a lot, artificial surrogates try to reproduce the main function of human blood: the ability to transport the oxygen molecules they need for their metabolism to cells. Let’s bear in mind that there is not a single type of artificial blood: over the years the experiments have led to the creation of different surrogates, some are derived from other animals, others have been designed with the ambition to have blood completely artificial.
The first case includes many derivatives, among which Hemopure stands out, obtained starting from the hemoglobin of cattle (hemoglobin is the protein responsible for the transport of oxygen through the red blood cells and its exchange with the tissues that need it ): has given some promising results and is used in a limited series of clinical tests in the United States to verify its effectiveness in treating the most serious cases of anemia, the disease that causes low hemoglobin levels in the blood.
Making fully synthetic blood is more complicated and has not led to great results. Among the possible solutions there is the use of synthetic molecules to produce something similar to hemoglobin, for example using perfluorocarbons, chemical compounds formed by carbon and fluorine. The experiment launched by the NHS in the United Kingdom concerns a different type of artificial blood, based on red blood cells recreated in the laboratory.
How artificial blood is made
One of the ways to create artificial blood that works in transfusions without causing rejections, or other adverse effects, involves the use of stem cells, that is, the cells of the organism that are not yet specialized and which can therefore perform different tasks depending on the their subsequent differentiation process. ASeveral years ago, a group of researchers from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris (France) used hematopoietic stem cells (CSE) – that is, the stem cells that originate all the blood cells – isolating them from some samples and using them in the laboratory to make them differentiate and multiply in red blood cells. The cells, about 10 billion (the equivalent of 2 milliliters of blood), were then injected into the patient, without side effects or other unexpected events.
In the United Kingdom, it was decided to proceed with the experimentation following the progressive drop in blood donations. According to health authorities, the time has come to experiment with alternative methods, just as safe and more practical, to have enough blood for transfusions. Systems for the production of artificial blood can also be used to provide patients with particular blood groups, for which there are statistically fewer donors.
Huge Sci Fi Movie Watcher, love and passion for anything digital, Daniele is intrigued by how technology is shaping human being’s everyday life….including our overall fitness and health standards by introducing new aliments to our daily nutrition list namely “nutropics”.