In vitro Production of New Blood

A recent study led by Boston University School of Medicine has demonstrated a novel approach to create an unlimited number of human red blood cells and platelets in vitro. In collaboration with Boston University School of Public Health and Boston Medical Center, the researchers differentiated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into these cell types, typically obtained through blood donations. The finding potentially reduces the need for blood donations and could help researchers examine novel therapeutic targets to treat a variety of diseases.

The study was led by George J. Murphy, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM and co-director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) at Boston University and BMC and performed in collaboration with David Sherr, PhD, a professor in environmental health at BUSM and BUSPH.

In this study, the iPS cells were obtained from the CReM iPS Cell Bank. The cells were exposed to growth factors in order to coax them to differentiate into red blood cells and platelets using a patented technology. These stem cells were examined in depth to study how blood cells form in order to further the understanding of how this process is regulated in the body.

In their new approach, the team added compounds that modulate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) pathway. Previous research has shown this pathway to be involved in the promotion of cancer cell development via its interactions with environmental toxins. In this study, however, the team noted an exponential increase in the production of functional red blood cells and platelets in a short period of time, suggesting that AhR plays an important role in normal blood cell development.

“This finding has enabled us to overcome a major hurdle in terms of being able to produce enough of these cells to have a potential therapeutic impact both in the lab and, down the line, in patients,” said Murphy. “Additionally, our work suggests that AhR has a very important biological function in how blood cells form in the body.”

iPS-derived cells have great potential to lead to a variety of novel treatments for diseases given that they can be used to construct disease models in a lab. The iPS-derived red blood cells could be used by researchers examining malaria and sickle cell anemia while the iPS-derived platelets could be used to explore cardiovascular disease and treatments for blood clotting disorders.

To view an abstract of the study, visit:

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