The stem cells that produce blood in the human body has been created in the lab for the first time by scientists as in an effort that could one day be used to effectively treat people with blood disease and leukemia.
A treatment that is administered using their own cells, rather than the traditional bone marrow transplant from a donor. It could also be used to create blood for transfusion.
This is considered a major breakthrough as stem cells are highly regarded as ‘master cells’ and if lab creation is possible, then patients would no long be dependent on donors.
The Stem Cells Medical experts, George Daley of Harvard Medical School explains that when the blood stem cells seize to function properly, they fail to maintain an adequate supply of blood cells. As a result, not enough oxygen reaches the body’s tissues, which can result in serious disease if organs such as the heart are affected. Blood stem cells can also be wiped out by chemotherapy for leukaemia and other cancers.
According to Daley, people with these disorders tend to be treated with bone marrow – complete with blood stem cells – from a healthy donor. The difficulty is finding a match. There is a one in four chance of achieving this from a healthy sibling, but the odds are slashed to one in a million if a stranger needs to be found.
How the cells were created
The Harvard professor, George Daley and his colleagues started with human pluripoten stem cell (which have the potential to form almost any other type of body cell). Then they searched for chemicals that might encourage these to become blood stem cells. After a thorough study of the genes involved in blood production, the team researchers were able to identify proteins that control these genes and applied them to their stem cells.
Many combinations of the proteins were tested and they found five that worked together to encourage their stem cells to become blood stem cells. When they put these into mice, they went on to produce new red and white blood cells and platelets.
Daley expressed his excitement quote, “it’s very cool,”says Daley. “We’re very excited about the results.”
The same feat was achieved by a separate team with stem cells taken from adult mice. Raphael Lis at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and his colleagues started with cells taken from the walls of the animals’ lungs, based on the idea that similar cells in an embryo eventually form the body’s first blood stem cells. The team identified a set of four factors that could encourage these lung stem cells to make them.
Other medical experts has expressed optimism towards what they continue to describe as a “breakthrough.” One of them Gubentif said “this is something people have been trying to achieve for a long time.”
By working with adult mouse epithelial cells, Lis and his team show that the feat could potentially be achieved with cells taken from an adult person. Daley’s team used human stem cells that could in theory be made from skin cells, bolstering the prospect that lab-made human blood could be next.
In the meantime the lab-made stem cells are not ready to used in people yet. The researchers said even though all the experimental mice were healthy throughout the experiments, there is a risk that the cells could mutate and cause cancer. And the cells are not quite as efficient at making blood as those found in the body.
However, Daley expressed hope that within few years, his procedure could be successfully used to create whole blood suitable for transfusions.