The mass production of artificial blood is perhaps the answer to address the need for a reliable supply of safe blood for patients in more than half of the world's countries and the search for it may be a thing of the past.
It is now a reality with the new technique that will immortalize the premature red blood cells and culture them to produce artificial blood in large volumes.
The current technique to produce artificial blood from stem cells can only produce so much. According to the researchers from the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant, this barrier has now been hurdled by immortalizing the erythroblasts lines to produce artificial blood continuously.
The Search For Sustainable, Reliable Supply
There are around 108 million blood donations every year worldwide, according to World Health Organization. Almost half of these blood donations came from industrialized countries where some 20 percent of the world's population live.
The developing countries, meanwhile, are facing the problem of storage, lack of blood donors, and screening. In some of the industrialized countries, the volume of donated blood was not enough to meet the demand for it.
To address the situation, the WHO saw the need to increase the number of voluntary blood donors globally.
Is It Reliable?
It should be.
A team from Advanced Cell Technology led by chief scientist Robert Lanza first produced red blood cells in a laboratory on large scale in 2008.
It was followed three years after with the first successful transfusion in a small amount of the artificial blood by Luc Douay, from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France, and colleagues.
One More Hurdle To Overcome
One remaining hurdle to overcome is volume.
Douay said it is still a big challenge how to mass produce the artificial blood. In the 2011 experiment, the team had injected some 10 billion artificial cells into volunteers. It was equivalent to only 2 milliliters of blood.
It seems this hurdle has been breached with the immortalization of erythroblasts although it remains to be seen.
Why It Matters
The search for the technology to mass produce artificial blood is a matter of life and death as the number of blood donors is falling.
NHS Blood and Transplant said the number of blood donors in England and North Wales had declined by 40 percent in 2015 when compared to 10 years ago.
Also, artificial blood may spell a big difference for patients with rare blood type whose possible donors are difficult to find.