In vitro blood?

Last month Dutch scientist Mark Post presented the first hamburger made from cultured meat. Today we received the news that the Dutch blood bank group Sanquin, is doing research to produce red blood cells in vitro, also known as erythrocytes.

Just as is the case with in vitro meat induced pluripotent stem cells are used. Only these stem cells aren’t directed to differentiate into muscle tissue, but into red blood cells. The involved researchers motivate this research as follows:

Culturing erythrocytes from immortal induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS) potentially solves the donor dependency problem and provides a tool to generate specific low immunogenic erythrocytes. (Sanquin, visited at September 20, 2013).

The production of blood in vitro, called hematopoieses by Sanquin, has several benefits. Blood transfusions have an associated risk for communicable diseases, therefore by using cultured blood instead of donor blood, the transmission of infectious diseases can be eliminated. It also reduce the number of blood donors required.

And this latter benefit is of great importance for space settlers. If as a result of some accident in a space settlement, blood transfusions are needed, in vitro blood might provide this without having to rely on blood transports from Earth. In a small and isolated community, classic collection of blood might prove to be insufficient in some cases. Typically only half a litre of blood is taken from an adult donor at a time, while some surgeries might require several litres of blood.

In vitro blood is just another technological development, which might help us to colonize our Solar System.

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