Tag Archives: iPSCs

First Transfusion with Artificial Blood Not Far Off

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS), in conjunction with various other medical research institutions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, have created artificial blood in the form of type O negative, otherwise known as the “universal donor,” a rare blood type that all other blood types can receive without the potential of severe, life-threatening immunological reactions occurring. The first transfusion with the new artificial blood is expected to occur late 2016.

Artificial blood, namely red blood cells, are produced by dedifferentiating fibroblasts—cells that generate connective tissue in the body, such as blood, bone, and cartilage—from an adult donor and reprogramming them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The iPSCs are then cultured for a month in a bone marrow-like environment, where mature red blood cells with their characteristic lack of nuclei are extracted.

Currently, non-blood volume expanders are available as an alternative to blood transfusions, which serves as a viable option for patients who have certain religious beliefs, such as Jehovah witnesses, who cannot accept animal products. Dextran, hetastarch, pentastarch, and normal saline or Lactated Ringer’s solution can be used to maintain blood volume and pressure. But they do not increase the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, which is the sole responsibility of red blood cells—namely hemoglobin, a metalloprotein that contains iron.

Even though 107 million blood donations are collected annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), blood is still in demand, particularly in developing nations. And despite of strict regulations regarding blood collection, storage, and release of its use, the risk of incompatibility reactions and transmitting diseases to recipients still exist.

With artificial blood, the constant need for blood donations is addressed, along with not worrying about infecting a patient with contaminated blood or other potential adverse reactions. Artificial blood is also a culturally sensitive solution to blood loss.

Prolific Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells from a Single Drop of Blood

Researchers at A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) in Singapore have discovered a technique to produce induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from a single drop of blood. Current methods for harvesting stem cells are invasive, which are generally collected from bone marrow or skin, and may put off potential donors. Other methods require large quantities of blood. Scientists at IMCB demonstrated the efficiency of their stem cell harvesting technique by converting cells from a drop of blood into functional cardiac cells.

Stem cells are essentially “blank slates” that can specialize into any type of cell, when given specific cellular “instructions,” and serve the organ or organ system it was “destined” to service. As a result of their nonspecific nature, stem cells have high regenerative properties. Majority of stem cells exist in 3-5 day old embryos called blastocysts that differentiate into specialized tissues that make up the body. In adults, bone marrow, muscle, and brain tissue have cells that can replace damaged cells that have been lost through everyday wear and tear, injury, or disease.

Induced pluripotent stem cells are genetically reprogrammed to imitate a stem cell-like state. A sample of one drop of blood from a finger stick is stable for 48 hours and lasts up to 12 days in culture. The finger stick does not have to be performed in a medical facility but at the comfort of home and then sent to a laboratory for reprograming.

Stem cells have the potential to shed light on a variety of diseases and are currently being used in regenerative medicine. New drugs to effectively combat chronic disorders, like diabetes and heart disease, can be discovered with stem cell research.

Currently, human and animal, such as those derived from mice, embryonic stem cell research is sanctioned in most countries, but they are not very accessible. Several induced pluripotent stem cell bank initiatives have arisen in Japan, UK, US to make iPSCs available for research and medical studies. With the finger-stick method, IMCB scientists are hoping stem cell research will break scientific barriers and endorse exciting new discoveries.