Dr. Eric Bouhassira, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have defined a method to improve the yield of cultured red blood cells (RBCs) by more than 100-fold. RBCs are critical for blood transfusions in surgeries, trauma care, and blood diseases such as sickle cell disease. Currently, blood used in these transfusions is obtained through donations. The ability to produce RBCs in culture (cRBCs) would safeguard the blood supply in times of disease, provide a ready source in areas of the world which lack a sufficient supply, and provide for patients with rare blood groups. cRBCs have been tested in only a single patient to date, but the technology is approaching the clinic. In a new paper published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine, Dr. Bouhassira combined several different methodologies to produce cRBCs from a number of sources, including umbilical cords, peripheral blood, and human embryonic stem cells. The optimized method developed by Dr. Bouhassira yielded an increase in the number of RBCs in a sample of over 100-fold, and he hypothesizes that with current technology he could boost the yield another 10- to 100-fold. Ultimately, Dr. Bouhassira envisions producing cRBCs from embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells in large bioreactors at the rate of hundreds of units of blood per week. This research was supported by a NYSTEM award to Dr. Bouhassira (contract #C024172).
Novel, High-Yield Red Blood Cell Production Methods from CD34-Positive Cells Derived from Human Embryonic Stem, Yolk Sac, Fetal Liver, Cord Blood, and Peripheral Blood. Olivier E, Qiu C, Bouhassira EE. Stem Cells Translational Medicine. 2012 Aug; 1(8):604-614.