NHS announces plans of first human trails of manufactured blood

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In a landmark development, the National Health Services (NHS) Blood and Transplant has revealed its plans of going ahead with first human trails of manufactured blood within two years.

The clinical trial, which will involve a group of 20 volunteers – will compare the survival of red cells manufactured from stem cells with that of standard blood donor red blood cells. During the trial, the participants will receive a small volume transfusion of between five and ten mls of the lab-produced blood.

Researchers at the University of Bristol and NHS Blood and Transplant, used stem from adult and umbilical cord blood to create a small volume of manufactured red blood cells – a breakthrough which holds the potential of offering an alternative to specialist patients with blood disorders such as sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia who require treatment with regular transfusions and for whom it is difficult to find compatible donors.

Researchers have revealed that they do not intend to replace the concept of blood donation, but through the manufactured blood intend to provide specialist treatment to specific group of patients.

Dr Nick Watkins, NHS Blood and Transplant Assistant Director of Research and Development, said: “Scientists across the globe have been investigating for a number of years how to manufacture red blood cells to offer an alternative to donated blood to treat patients. We are confident that by 2017 our team will be ready to carry out the first early phase clinical trials in human volunteers.

NHS Blood and Transplant has already set ambitious targets for organ and blood donation. The 2020 research and development plan focuses investment in experimental medicine to support these. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has committed £12.1 million funding for three NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Units.

The NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Units will be embedded within a top university, and, in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant, will focus on rapid translation of research findings into routine practice in blood donation and in transplantation of stem cells and organs. A decision regarding a possible fourth NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit is expected soon.

The landmark in-man clinical trials of manufactured blood form a key part of the blood and organ service’s 2020 Research and Development programme, and are set to be transfused into humans by 2017.