LAB-MADE HU­MAN BLOOD IS NOW “TANTALISINGLY CLOSE”

Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

Now here’s a bloody good piece of re­search! A team at Bos­ton Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal have gen­er­ated blood-form­ing stem cells in the lab for the first time, a break­through that could en­able the de­vel­op­ment of more ef­fec­tive treat­ments for ge­netic blood dis­eases

To cre­ate the cells, the team used a com­bi­na­tion of chem­i­cal pro­cesses and ge­netic engi­neer­ing to coax hu­man pluripo­tent stem cells – cells ca­pa­ble of form­ing any adult cell – to dif­fer­en­ti­ate into hemogenic en­dothe­lium, an em­bry­onic form of tis­sue that gives rise to blood stem cells. They then im­planted the re­sult­ing tis­sue into mice. Weeks later, a small num­ber of the an­i­mals be­gan pro­duc­ing sev­eral types of hu­man blood cells. Some mice were even able to mount a hu­man im­mune re­sponse af­ter vac­ci­na­tion. “We’re tantalisingly close to gen­er­at­ing bona

fide hu­man blood stem cells in a dish. This is the cul­mi­na­tion of over 20 years of striv­ing,” said re­searcher Ge­orge Da­ley. “We’re now able to model hu­man blood func­tion in ‘hu­man­ised’ mice. This is a ma­jor step for­ward for our abil­ity to in­ves­ti­gate ge­netic blood dis­ease.”

Al­though the cells made from the pluripo­tent stem cells are a mix of true blood stem cells and other cells known as blood pro­gen­i­tor cells, they proved ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing mul­ti­ple types of hu­man blood cells when put into mice.

“This step opens up an op­por­tu­nity to take cells from pa­tients with ge­netic blood dis­or­ders, use gene edit­ing to cor­rect their ge­netic de­fect and make func­tional blood cells,” said re­searcher Ry­ohichi Sugimura. “This also gives us the po­ten­tial to have a lim­it­less sup­ply of blood stem cells and blood by tak­ing cells from univer­sal donors. This could po­ten­tially aug­ment the blood sup­ply for pa­tients who need trans­fu­sions.”

The lab-pro­duced blood stem cells can de­velop into dif­fer­ent types of blood cell

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