Boston: Researchers have identified a novel approach to create an unlimited number of human red blood cells and platelets in vitro, a key finding that could reduce need for blood donations.
A study led by Boston University School of Medicine researchers has differentiated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into these cell types, which are typically obtained through blood donations.
This finding could potentially reduce the need for blood donations to treat patients requiring blood transfusions and could help researchers examine novel therapeutic targets to treat a variety of diseases, including sickle cell disease.
IPS cells are derived by reprogramming adult cells into a primitive stem cell state that are capable of differentiating into different types of cells.
These cells can be generated from mature somatic cells, such as skin or blood cells, allowing for the development of patient-specific cells and tissues that should not elicit inappropriate immune responses, making them a powerful tool for biological research and a resource for regenerative medicine.
In this study, the iPS cells were obtained from a Cell Bank. The cells were exposed to growth factors in order to coax them to differentiate into red blood cells and platelets using a patented technology.
These stem cells were examined in depth to study how blood cells form in order to further the understanding of how this process is regulated in the body.
In their new approach, the team added compounds that modulate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) pathway. Previous research has shown this pathway to be involved in the promotion of cancer cell development via its interactions with environmental toxins.
In this study, however, the team noted an exponential increase in the production of functional red blood cells and platelets in a short period of time, suggesting that AhR plays an important role in normal blood cell development.
"This finding has enabled us to overcome a major hurdle in terms of being able to produce enough of these cells to have a potential therapeutic impact both in the lab and, down the line, in patients," said George J Murphy, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM and co-director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM).
The study was published in the journal Blood.