Stem Cell Research Moves Into the Bloodstream

August 21, 2008 07:56 AM
by Emily Coakley
Researchers have found yet another way stem cells could help people, this time by acting as red blood cells.

Turning Stem Cells Into Red Blood Cells

Stem cells have been turned into blood cells, according to findings published this month in the journal Blood. Though whether these embryonic stem cells could be turned into blood cells on a large scale is another question, researchers say.

Being able to mass produce blood in the lab would eliminate worries about tainted donations, said one stem cell researcher who wasn’t involved with the latest study.

“People don’t usually think about these types of cells when they talk about human embryonic stem cell therapy, but it is important,” Dan Kaufman, associate director of the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota, told the LA Times. “There’s more infections all the time, and the number of donors is more and more limited.”

Finding enough eligible and willing blood donors is a chronic concern. Currently, there are blood shortages in the Atlanta area, as well as parts of the Midwest.

But Roger Dodd of the American Red Cross, which solicits and processes blood donations around the United States, told the Times manufacturing blood is “an ambitious goal” that would likely cost far more per pint than donated blood.

The blood cell news is the latest in a series of studies that suggest a wide range of applications for stem cells, from healing the heart to re-growing tendons.

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