Researchers have revealed that they are “tantalizingly close” to turning adult cells into stem cells, which would be able to create any kind of blood cell.
According to a team of researchers, after almost 20 years of trying to find a way to artificially create blood by turning stem cells into blood cells, they are now close to making this a reality. This would allow us to treat people with blood disorders and immune conditions regarding blood cells, as well as astonishingly increase the efficiency of blood transfusions, rather than completely depending on blood donors.
The researchers have reportedly managed to create many different types of blood stem cells, which can produce a number of different kinds of human blood cells when inserted into mice.
A second team of researchers was also able to turn adult mouse cells into mouse blood stem cells. When mice who had their immune system removed were given those blood stem cells, their immune blood cells levels were restored. In theory, if this could be done in humans, this could help us treat a wide range of immune disorders.
Comments from the Science Community
According to Ryohichi Sugimura, a researcher at the Daley Lab in Boston Children’s Hospital, said:
“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. 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.”
Problems with the Research?
The risk of using stem cells for therapy is that it could possibly become cancerous. Neither team found cancer to be caused by their techniques. However, mice have a much shorter lifespan than humans, so the results are not conclusive.
Dr. Caroline Guibentif, an expert in the field, commented on the research papers saying: “Of course it’s a big step towards the foal but we are not quite there yet.”
“When you use mice, they only live up to a year and a half or so. Human develop cancer partly because they have a long lifespan. We are talking about different timescales.”