First Human Trial for Lab-Grown Blood

The goal is to manufacture ultra-rare blood types for people who depend on regular blood transfusions for conditions like sickle cell anemia.


Donating blood gives a much-deserved feeling of altruism, but I wouldn’t consider it a necessarily enjoyable experience. A recent BBC Health article discussed new lab-grown blood that could ease the pressure on donors. The blood is now being used in small quantities in the world’s first such clinical trial. And when I say small amounts, I mean a couple of spoonfuls are being tested to see if the body accepts it. If blood isn’t a precise match, the body will reject it and the treatment will fail.

The clinical trial brings together teams in Bristol, Cambridge, London and at the NHS Blood and Transplant. They started with a normal pint of donated blood, and used magnetic beads to remove flexible stem cells that can become red blood cells. They then develop in a lab setting before being filtered down when at the right stage of development for transplant. It is then transplanted into healthy volunteers who receive two donations of 5-10mL at least four months apart–one of which is normal blood, and the other lab-grown. The blood cells are tagged with a radioactive substance so that the team can monitor how long they last in the body, which should be at least 120 days.