Artificial blood has already been available to the public for quite some time. However, a team of researchers found a way to make the production of these red blood cells even better.
While the previous technique involved coaxing a type of stem cell to manufacture red blood cells in the body (which is inefficient and slow as each cell will just eventually burn out), this new method a team from the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant crafted makes the stem cells "immortal" to produce unlimited supply of artificial blood.
Their technique differs as it involves specifically trapping stem cells at an early stage where they grow in number indefinitely. This can produce a trillion red blood cells for each bag of blood.
"We have demonstrated a feasible way to sustainably manufacture red cells for clinical use," said Dr. Jan Frayne, one of the researchers. "We've grown liters of it."
Now, the problem would be its mass production. A manufacturing technology is needed to produce this type of artificial blood on a large scale. "There is a bioengineering challenge. To produce that much at scale is quite a challenge, and really the next phase of our work is to look at methods of expanding the yield," another author of the research, Prof David Anstee said. Also, this "cultured red blood cells" would have a higher cost than the conventional ones.
Moreover, while the researchers say that this isn't designed to replace the traditional blood donation, this would be useful specially for those patients with rare blood groups. Safety trials of this type of artificial blood are already planned for later this year.
"Globally, there is a need for an alternative red cell product. Cultured red blood cells have advantages over donor blood, such as reduced risk of infectious disease transmission." said Dr. Frayne.