Growing red blood cells could be the answer to the shortage of blood required by hospitals all over the world. The Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine is at the cutting edge of this innovative way to solve the problem of blood shortages.
We filmed at their state of the art laboratory in Edinburgh which is dedicated to the procedure of growing blood.
At the moment the only method of collecting blood is by donation – which is enormously expensive. But as populations age, more people will need blood and fewer will be able to donate it.
The Scottish team think that one day their work may make it possible to do away with blood donating altogether. In poorer countries there is already a critical shortage of blood. No one knows how many deaths this causes.
Blood donations are few and keeping them free of infections is a constant struggle.
The Scottish team believe that growing stem cells and turning them into blood could be the answer. Nurturing stem cells in a series of liquid cultures encourages them to develop into red blood cells. The challenge for the laboratory is to do this on a much larger scale and in a way that is clinically safe, because the aim is for human trials.
The team uses embryonic stem cells, left over from a fertility clinic. They would be destroyed if not used by the clinic.
At the moment the clinic is producing just teaspoonfulls of the blood – but their aim is to produce whole bags of useable blood.