UK research teams to make blood from ESCs

A consortium involving NHS Blood and Transplant, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and the Wellcome Trust is backing a new research project that will attempt to create 'synthetic' blood from embryonic stem cells. Backers say that the new blood supply should be ready for testing in humans within three years.

Researchers in the project will identify surplus embryos used in IVF treatments to find the stem cells that can develop into O-negative blood, which can be transfused into virtually every patient. The stem cells can then be developed into red blood cells, offering potentially an inexhaustible supply of blood for emergency situations.

Advanced Cell Technology made headlines last year with its announcement that it could make a fresh supply of blood from embryonic stem cells. But The Independent notes that ACT has been held back by a lack of research funds. Researchers in Sweden, France and Australia are also reportedly working in the field, though the Wellcome Trust appears willing to provide several million pounds to make it a reality in the near term.

The allure of creating unlimited amounts of synthetic blood has been a longstanding goal of the military, which has been seeking fresh supplies to care for soldiers in battlefield emergencies. A new blood supply would also be useful for ERs around the world.

- read the report from The Independent