Saturday, 1 June 2013

New method to produce red blood cells from stem cells

In a recent study, researchers from the Boston University and the Boston Medical Centre have developed a new method to produce human red blood cells and platelets in vitro using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The newly developed technique, has the potential to answer the ongoing demand for blood donations needed by patients requiring blood transfusions and may help researchers identify new therapeutic approaches for several diseases, including sickle cell disease.

The research team, led by George Murphy assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, first obtained iPSCs from the CReM iPS Cell Bank. The cells were then exposed to certain growth factors and compounds that modulate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) pathway, which has been shown in previous studies to promote cancer cell development.

Red blood cells

However, the researchers say that instead of promoting cancer cell production, they noticed a rapid increase in the production of functional red blood cells and platelets, which indicates that the AhR pathway plays a crucial role in the development of blood cells.

"Our work suggests that AhR has a very important biological function in how blood cells form in the body. 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. Patient-specific red blood cells and platelets derived from iPS cells, which would solve problems related to immunogenicity and contamination, could potentially be used therapeutically and decrease the anticipated shortage and the need for blood donations" said Murphy.

One of the greatest applications of iPSCs is in creating disease-in-a-dish models to study various diseases without the need for living specimen. The iPSCs-derived blood cells could be used to examine blood-clotting disorders, malaria, sickle cell anemia, and other blood affecting diseases, say the researchers.

Smith BW, Rozelle SS, Leung A, Ubellacker J, Parks A, Nah SK, French D, Gadue P, Monti S, Chui DH, Steinberg MH, Frelinger AL, Michelson AD, Theberge R, McComb ME, Costello CE, Kotton DN, Mostoslavsky G, Sherr DH, & Murphy GJ (2013). The aryl hydrocarbon receptor directs hematopoietic progenitor cell expansion and differentiation. Blood PMID: 23723449

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