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Lab-grown blood given to people in world-first

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A significant clinical trial is currently underway in the United Kingdom. The study is the first to transfuse into humans red blood cells grown in the lab from donated stem cells.

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If this research is successful, these blood cells will be extremely useful for people with rare blood types, though they will not replace the need for traditional blood donation.

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The RESTORE trial is being carried out by scientists from the UK's National Health Services and various universities. The study is expected to include at least ten healthy volunteers.

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They will all receive two mini-transfusions of lab-grown blood cells and standard cells, both derived from the same donor, four months apart and in random order.

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As of early Monday, two participants had received the lab-grown blood cells and appeared to be experiencing no side effects.

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Blood production in the laboratory has long piqued the interest of scientists. However, replicating the complex natural process that allows stem cells in our blood marrow to become new red blood cells has proven difficult.

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This technology could one day provide a more consistent and long-lasting supply of blood cells to people who have a rare combination of blood types or who have developed conditions that make standard transfusions difficult to receive, such as sickle cell disease.

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For the time being, this trial is only the beginning. More human studies, as well as five to ten years of development, are needed before lab-grown blood cells can be made available to the public, according to the researchers.