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Study Uses Stem Cells to Boost Red Blood Cell Production

TUESDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) — Using human stem cells,
scientists have developed methods to boost the production of red blood
cells, according to a new study.

Their discovery could significantly increase the blood supply needed
for blood transfusions, the researchers said, and their methods can be
used to produce any blood type.

“Being able to produce red blood cells from stem cells has the
potential to overcome many difficulties of the current system, including
sporadic shortages,” Dr. Anthony Atala, editor of the journal Stem
Cells Translational Medicine
, in which the study appeared, said in a
journal news release.

“This team has made a significant contribution to scientists’ quest to
produce red blood cells in the lab,” said Atala, who is also director of
the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

How does the new process work?

“We combined different cell-expansion protocols into a ‘cocktail’ that
increased the number of cells we could produce by 10- to 100-fold,” said
researcher Eric Bouhassira, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in
New York City.

Currently, the blood needed for life-saving transfusions is obtained
only through donations. As a result, blood can be in short supply,
particularly for those with rare blood types. The researchers produced a
higher yield of red blood cells by using stem cells from cord blood and
circulating blood as well as embryonic stem cells, according to the

“The ability of scientists to grow large quantities of red blood cells
at an industrial scale could revolutionize the field of transfusion
medicine,” Bouhassira said. “Collecting blood through a donation-based
system is serving us well but it is expensive, vulnerable to disruption
and insufficient to meet the needs of some people who need ongoing
transfusions. This could be a viable long-term alternative.”

The study, which appeared online Aug. 2, was partially supported by the
funding agency of the New York State Empire Stem Cell Board.

More information

Visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health to learn more about stem

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