Blood banks have been experiencing a shortage of donors, but scientists may have found a solution to their worries. Man-made blood may not be too far in the future, as researchers have officially grown bone marrow in a lab that has functioning platelets.
LiveScience reports that leukemia patients may be the first to benefit from the new research. Scientists were able to grow bone marrow in a lab, but they say the process wasn’t easy, as bone marrow requires a very specific type of “spongy” environment to thrive. The lab used a special hydrogel, that is described as being similar to what makes up contact lenses, to grow the bone marrow. The hydrogel was placed over salt crystals and then the salt crystals were removed. The bone marrow was then grown within the spongy catacomb that was left behind.
Surprisingly, when stem cells from umbilical cord blood were placed in the lab-made bone marrow, they reproduced correctly. As an added benefit, after four days of reproducing, the cells remained, for all intents and purposes, stem cells. This means they could form any type of blood cell needed.
“The stem cells reproduced in the artificial bone marrow, and more than 90 percent of cells still had the markings of stem cells after four days, a sign they retained their ability to form any type of blood cell.”
Though the research is promising and the stem cells reproduced as expected in the lab-made bone marrow, more tests are needed before the man-made blood could be used to treat leukemia patients. First, the stem cells must pass animal testing and then human clinical trials. Therefore, it would be at least 15 years before the treatment could be used on human patients.
According to the Daily Mail, “the achievement raises hopes that it will soon be possible to produce fully functional blood in a similar way.” The idea of tailor made blood transfusions may not be as far-fetched as you may believe. In fact, if trials pan out for the bone marrow treatment, whole blood could soon follow. In fact, lab-created blood may be more effective and less risky than human blood donations.
“Donated blood also carries risks as unless it matches the bloody type of the recipient it can be rejected, while it can also carry diseases like hepatitis and HIV, making it unusable. Scientists hope that by using a patient’s stem cells, it should be possible to grow blood that is a perfect match.”
What do you think of the possibility of treatments featuring man-made blood products such as the lab-grown bone marrow?