In a breakthrough of potentially enormous importance, researchers have grown the stem cells that produce blood inside a lab for the first time.
The advance could help pave the way for both the creation of blood for transfusions, as well as for treating patients with blood disorders using their own cells, instead of having to rely on donor marrow transplants.
“Bone marrow transplants offer a cure to leukemia, sickle cell disease, and a variety of other blood disorders,” Dr. Raphael Lis, from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, told Digital Trends. “The problem is that many patients don’t have a well-matched donor to provide the marrow needed to reconstitute their blood with healthy cells.
To address this challenge, we and others have been trying to develop reliable, lab-based methods to generate the essential blood-producing component of bone marrow: Hematopoietic stem cells.”
To make their blood stem cells, the Weill Cornell researchers took cells from the walls of animal lungs, and then used a set of four proteins they had identified that encouraged them to form blood stem cells.
In an experiment, the reprogrammed blood stem cells were shown to regenerate the entire blood system of mice for the duration of their lifespan, as well as providing a boost to their immune systems.