Manufacture of red blood cells possible after research breakthrough

pharmafile | March 27, 2017 | News story | Manufacturing and Production, Research and Development Stem cells, University of Bristol 

Researchers from the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant have managed to perfect a technique whereby it is possible to manufacture red blood cells to higher quantities than previously. The process uses stem cells in a different way to previous research, keeping the cells at a premature state that allows the cells to be reproduced indefinitely.

Prior to this, research had hit a cul-de-sac when stem cells would mature into red blood cells but would require significant numbers of stem cells in order to produce meaningful quantities. The new research displayed that it was possible to ‘immortalise’ erythroid cells that can be cultured to the required quantity before then being matured into red blood cells.

This effectively creates a production line of red blood cells and could be used in people with rare blood disorders or to create particularly rare groups.

Professor Dave Anstee, Director at the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit in Red Cell Products, which is a collaboration between the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Scientists have been working for years on how to manufacture red blood cells to offer an alternative to donated blood to treat patients. The first therapeutic use of a cultured red cell product is likely to be for patients with rare blood groups because suitable conventional red blood cell donations can be difficult to source. The patients who stand to potentially benefit most are those with complex and life-limiting conditions like sickle cell disease and thalassemia, which can require multiple transfusions of well-matched blood. The intention is not to replace blood donation but provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups.”

The next stage is to test the manufactured blood in patients, with the clinical trials designed to test this commencing by the end of the year. The process is still a long way from replacing current donor methods but, as mentioned by Anstee, there is potential for this to be used in isolated cases.

Ben Hargreaves

Related Content


Bone regeneration stem cell “putty” sees positive results in trials

Belgian clinical stage company, Novadip Biosciences, has announced positive results from its Phase I trial …

Rinri Therapeutics secures £3.2 million grant for hearing loss therapy

Sheffield-based biotech company, Rinri Therapeutics, have secured a £3.2 million grant from Innovate UK to …


Diabetes drug could increase stem cells in the womb to treat recurrent miscarriage

A study led by the University of Warwick found that sitagliptin, a diabetes drug, could …

Latest content