Human blood stem cells created in lab

In a world first, George Q. Daley, Dean of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, has created lab-made human blood stem cells. Working with a team of colleagues, he studied genes involved in blood production, identifying proteins that can control these genes, applying them to human pluripotent stem cells and encouraging them to become blood stem cells. When put in mice, they went on to produce new red and white blood cells and platelets.

The creation of stem cells could be used in the treatment of blood diseases and leukaemia, which was previously treated via bone marrow transplants. However, Daley said there is only a “one in four chance” of finding a suitable donor from a relative, or a mere “one in a million” chance from a stranger. This “breakthrough”, as described by Caroline Guibentif of the University of Cambridge, means we wouldn’t be dependant on donors if we “can develop [these cells] in the lab in a safe way and in high enough numbers.”

So far, the procedure has only been tested on mice, but Daley is working to hone it so that these cells can be suitable for hospital use, with a hope of using them to create whole blood for transfusions.

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