Two recent studies bring proof that scientists might soon be able to use stem cells from patients to produce personalized and unlimited blood cell supplies. This comes to the help of people in need of frequent transfusions, and of those who struggle to find blood and bone marrow donors.
Stem cells can be used to produce other cells
Stem cells are especially programmed to give birth to other type of cells. In 2006, researchers were able to turn regular mouse cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Since then, they kept exploring new ways to create such cells. Their aim was to determine these iPS cells to produce blood.
If such an attempt were successful, researchers would be able to take cells from ill patients, perform genetic editing on them to correct the disorder, and then get them to produce healthy blood cells. Also, the same technique can be used on donor cells to create unlimited blood supply.
Two methods were successful in producing mouse blood cells
For the first study, researchers used both iPS cells and embryonic stem cells. Then, they subjected these cells to special conditions and factors which can determine them to turn into blood cells. In the end, they combined them with certain transcription factors which force them directly to turn into the desired cells. Hence, they found out which transcription factors are necessary to trigger blood cell production.
In the second research, scientists used neither embryonic nor iPS cells, but adult stem cells. They identified the necessary transcription factors and converted the cells directly, without turning them into iPS cells first.
Both methods successfully produced functional mouse blood cells. Although the second one sounds more effective and quick, researchers have not tested any of them on human cells yet. Whichever might work, it is clear that they got incredibly close to managing to produce blood supplies without the need of a donor.
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