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NEW APPROACH TO SPEED UP RED BLOOD CELLS GENERATION IN THE LAB

  Jun 20, 2020

NEW APPROACH TO SPEED UP RED BLOOD CELLS GENERATION IN THE LAB

What is the Importance of the Red Blood Cells in curative medical care?

  1. Transfusion of red blood cells (RBCs) is a life-saving treatment for numerous conditions such as severe anaemia, injury-related trauma, supportive care in cardiovascular surgery, transplant surgery, pregnancy-related complications, solid malignancies and blood-related cancers. 

Scarcity of RBCs:

  1. However, blood banks, particularly in developing countries, often face a severe shortage of whole blood as well as components of blood like red blood cells.

How do we generate RBCs in labs and what are the associated problems with it?

  1. Researchers across the world are exploring possibilities to generate RBCs outside the body (in vitro) from haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs).  
  2. These HSCs have the capability to give rise to the different types of cells found in the blood. Various groups have been able to produce RBCs in the laboratory from HSCs. 

Problems:

  1. However, this process takes a long time - around twenty-one days. The resources required to grow cells in the laboratory over such a long duration can be very expensive for generation of RBCs on a large scale for clinical purposes.

What is the new research to reduce cost and time taken in the development of the RBCs in Lab?

  1. A team of researchers led by Dr L. S. Limaye, ex-scientist at the Department of Biotechnology’s National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) at Pune have found a way to tackle the issue.
  2. They have found that the process can be speeded up by adding a very low concentration of a small protein molecule called `transforming growth factor β1’ (TGF-β1), along with a hormone called `erythropoietin’ (EPO), to the growth medium. They could cut down the process time by three days.
  3. Dr Limaye noted that several tests to assess the quality of the cells formed, and examination of many of their characteristics, including physical appearance, revealed that the RBCs formed using this procedure were normal.
  4. The findings are worthy of further exploration. Additional investigations based on the insights gained from these studies could help assess the relevance of using this approach for blood transfusions in the future.