Blood is of critical significance to humans. A sizable portion of the population around the globe is in a need of blood transfusions at any given time. Wellcome Trust aims to resolve this problem with lab-manufactured blood, which will be first transfused into an actual human by 2016.
The problem with blood transfusions today is two-pronged: one, there is never enough blood and many die out of lack of timely and adequate blood bags. Second, the blood from a human source is sure to carry certain infections or can cause a case of incompatibility in the recipient patient, further complicating the medical problem.
Lab-manufactured blood can resolve both of these key issues with blood transfusions. It is such that it wouldn’t carry any infections and it can be created on an industrial scale to cater to the medical needs. Wellcome Trust has put itself to this task, handing out a huge $8.4 million grant to Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, an organization which is leading the research on this front.
Many other prestigious institutions and organizations are collaborating with the Scottish organization on this research. So far, the research has yielded the successful creation of O- type red blood cells which are medically fit to be transfused into a human body.
Explaining the process of creating blood in a lab, Dr. Joanne Mountford of University of Glasgow says, “We must first make the stem cells become a mesoderm – one of the body layers that makes things like muscle, bone and blood – and then get it to turn into blood cells. Then we have to make it develop into a red blood cell specifically and finally make it eject its nuclei and mature properly.”
Scientists and researchers are focusing on further improving and refining this O- blood type. A breakthrough on this can be immensely useful because O- blood type can be used by patients with any other blood type, being the universal donor blood group. But it will be a while before industrial production of such blood is possible. Like Mountford says, “Ensuring that any industrially produced blood can be made economically viable is quite a task.” Experts, however, estimate that such blood will become available in the market by 2016.