LAB-MADE HUMAN BLOOD IS NOW “TANTALISINGLY CLOSE”
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