A team of university researchers in the U.K. are working on an efficient formula for creating mass stocks of synthetic blood from stem cells. And they say may be just a couple of years from beginning the first human studies of their artificial blood, which relies on bone marrow cells as the raw material in their lab program.
Their work is being funded by the Wellcome Trust, a high profile player in British research circles. Edinburgh University's Professor Marc Turner, who's collaborating with investigators in Glasgow, has made oxygen-carrying red blood cells. But the big challenge is making enough quantities that can supply a country's O-negative blood, which can satisfy 98% of the demand.
But even as investigators captured headlines with their work last week, they're also being forced to consider moving away from embryonic stem cells to iPS cells after the European Court of Justice's decision that scientists can't patent their work on ESCs. Without patents, they say, no private company would ever touch their work, let alone gamble the money needed to launch commercial operations.
"The NHS is not in the business of developing products and to see this technology going forward we would need private investment. In the broadest sense, the patent ruling will have an impact on possible investment by the private sector," Turner told The Independent.
Synthetic blood has been a target of researchers for years. The idea that a scalable source of safe blood could be set up to replace the infrastructure for blood donors has driven a number of commercialization efforts, with some notable failures.