The very first transfusion of lab produced red blood cells

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England (Commonwealth Union) – Blood transfusions can play a significant role following a serious accident or after chemotherapy. A variety of health conditions can also require regular transfusions. UK researchers have conducted a study involving red blood cells grown in laboratory conditions that have been transfused into an individual in a world first clinical trial.

The blood cells produced had been obtained from donor stem cells. The red cells were then given to volunteers in the RESTORE randomized controlled clinical trial.

This is the first time in the world that red blood cells that have been produced in laboratory conditions have been given to another person as part of a trial into a blood transfusion. Evidence of safety and effectivity, of manufactured blood cells may revolutionize treatments for people with blood disorders like sickle cell and rare blood types, since it is challenging at times to find sufficient well-matched donated blood for certain individuals having these disorders.

The RESTORE trial is a research collaboration between NHS Blood and Transplant and the University of Bristol, working with the University of Cambridge, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, NIHR Cambridge Clinical Research Facility, and the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It is partially funded by a National Institute for Health and Care Research grant.

The trial is evaluating the lifespan of the lab grown cells contrasted with infusions of standard red blood cells taken from the same donor. All lab-grown blood cells are fresh; hence the research team expect an improved performance compared to a similar transfusion of standard donated red cells, containing cells of varying ages.

Co-Chief Investigator Ashley Toye, Professor of Cell Biology from the University of Bristol who is also Director of the NIHR Blood and Transplant Unit in red cell products, stated that it was both a challenging and exciting trial that was a major step for producing blood obtained from stem cells. “This is the first-time lab grown blood from an allogeneic donor has been transfused and we are excited to see how well the cells perform at the end of the clinical trial,” he said.

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