​NHS to test ‘synthetic blood’ within 2 years

Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch
Long-awaited clinical trials for a new kind of synthetic blood will begin within two years, according to the National Health Service (NHS).

Small amounts of the fluid, made from stems cells taken from the umbilical cord blood of new-born babies and the blood of adult donors, will be given to human subjects to test for adverse reactions, and to see if the blood cells can survive inside people.

The long-term hope is that the NHS will be able to manufacture all the blood it needs. Immediate plans involve producing blood for those suffering from conditions such as sickle-cell anemia.

READ MORE: New stem cell may eventually generate human organs in animals, save millions of lives

The synthetic blood could effectively remove the risk of HIV/AIDS being transmitted through transfusions.

NHS blood and transplant assistant director of research and development, Dr Nick Watkins, told the Independent: “These trials will compare manufactured cells with donated blood.

The intention is not to replace blood donation, but to provide specialist treatment for specific patient groups.

The 2017 trials will be part of a five-year project taking place at a number of English universities, with a parallel Scottish program running simultaneously.

The trial, thought be a world first, highlights the potential power of stem cell research.

In May, US scientists discovered a novel kind of stem cell that could one day generate cells and tissues for any kind of organ in the human body – a development that may help to save lives by addressing the shortage of organ donors.

The news came in a fresh study from the Salk Institute of Biological Research, in which scientists said a new stem cell called pluripotent is capable of developing into any type of tissue.

Traditionally, stem cells used in scientific studies are characterized by their stage of development, but in the Salk discovery, researchers found a way to trigger early-stage development in human stem cells towards tissue creation. This means they could potentially be cultured for specific uses.