Two patients in the U.K. were the first people in the world to have laboratory-grown, red blood cells successfully transfused into them, the country’s National Health Service said Monday.
Neither of the patients has experienced “untoward side effects” so far, the NHS reported, after they were infused with between 5-10 mls of the lab-grown blood.
They are taking part in the NHS’ “RESTORE” clinical trial, where researchers are seeking to find out if lab-grown red blood cells will last longer in the body than freshly donated blood.
If the manufactured blood cells are proven safe, effective and have longer life spans, the NHS said that they can be given to people who suffer from blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia and to other rare blood types where it can be hard to find suitable donors.
Further, people who need regular blood transfusions can rely on the manufactured cells as a clinical product rather than needing repeated donations from a matching blood type.
“We hope our lab grown red blood cells will last longer than those that come from blood donors,” Chief Investigator Professor Cedric Ghevaert of NHS Blood and Transplant said in a press release. “If our trial, the first such in the world, is successful, it will mean that patients who currently require regular long-term blood transfusions will need fewer transfusions in the future, helping transform their care.”
The lab-grown red blood cells came from blood donations made to the NHS Blood and Transplant donor base. People donated blood to the trial and then stem cells were separated from their blood, which were used to produce red blood cells in an NHS lab.
Going forward, the trial will give a minimum of 10 participants mini transfusions at least four months apart — one of the donated blood cells and one of the lab-grown cells — to see if the lab cells can last longer in the body.