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IPFS News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Scientists safely injected two patients with lab-grown blood

As BBC News reported this week, a group of researchers pooled together from Bristol, Cambridge, London and the UK's NHS Blood and Transplant recently injected their first two human volunteers with 5-10 milliliters (roughly "a couple spoonfuls") of blood grown entirely within a laboratory setting—a world's first. About four months later, the test subjects will also receive a similar injection of donated, naturally-developed blood to compare. If the patients' bodies don't reject the "artificial" donation, it could be an absolute game changer for increasing supplies of previously ultra-rare blood types, and may even one day enable smaller and less frequent transfusions.

To grow the artificial blood, researchers first use magnetic beads to isolate and remove stem cells capable of becoming red blood cells from a normal, single-pint donation of blood. These stem cells are then cultivated to grow in massive numbers before being "guided" to become red blood cells. According to the BBC, the process requires about three weeks and a starting pool of half a million stem cells in order to result in 50 billion red blood cells. Of those, about 15 billion are at the proper development stage to use in a subsequent transplant.

In theory, the lab-grown blood could even be more potent and last longer than human generated donations. Usually, human blood donations are a mixture of young and old blood cells, but since the lab-grown variety is much "newer," it could one day extend the time between patients' necessary donation times.