London: Blood donation may be a thing of the past as scientists have successfully engineered a rice plant to produce a key blood component.
The protein, extracted from rice plants containing human genes, could be used in hospitals to treat burns victims and help patients who have suffered severe blood loss.
Scientists claim it will provide a plentiful and safe alternative to products from human blood donations, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
Donated blood is separated into three components - red blood cells, platelets, which are used to aid blood clotting, and plasma, which is mainly made up of a protein called Human Serum Albumin (HSA) and is given to patients suffering heavy blood loss, according to the Telegraph.
HSA is the most abundant protein in human blood, carrying hormones and minerals around the body, mopping up harmful toxins from the blood stream and helping to regulate blood pressure.
Daichang Yang, who led the study at Wuhan University in China, said: "Human Serum Albumin is an important protein. The demand for it is estimated at more than 500 tons per year worldwide."
Yang and colleagues have developed a technique for inserting human genes into Asian rice using bacteria, turning the plants into biological "factories" that can produce proteins that are identical to those found in humans.
Yang said the protein produced by the engineered rice was identical to HSA found naturally in blood. Tests on rats also showed it did not produce any adverse reactions.