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Laboratory made blood to be tested in the UK in two years

26 June 2015

Laboratory made blood will be tested by the UK's National Health Service (NHS) within two years.

The new blood cells will be produced in bulk from stem cells that normally circulate in the blood. In the safety tests, around 20 people would receive small quantities of "lab-blood.''

According to NHS Blood and Transplant it would be a "landmark" moment and could benefit people with conditions such as sickle cell anaemia, as it had seen the number of new blood donors fall.

Artificial blood is a potential solution especially for patients for whom it was hard to find a good blood match.

The trial will be organised by the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford and get underway by 2017.

Healthy people, not patients, would receive five to 10ml (less than two teaspoons) of the manufactured blood, which is much lower than a transfusion of a unit of blood, or 470ml.

Dr Nick Watkins, from NHS Blood and Transplant, says, "Scientists across the globe have been investigating for a number of years how to manufacture red blood cells to offer as an alternative to donated blood to treat patients.

"We are confident that by 2017 our team will be ready to carry out the first early phase clinical trials in human volunteers.''

However, according to Watkins the intention was not to replace human donation, but to offer specialist treatment for specific patient groups.

"These trials will compare manufactured cells with donated blood. Continued investment in research and development is critical to our role in saving and improving lives through blood and organ donation."

NHS authorities warned of a growing crisis in blood donation, and declining numbers of volunteers offering to donate blood.

According to official figures, 40 per cent fewer new donors came forward from England and Wales in 2014/15, as against 2004/5.

Sounding an alert, NHS Blood and Transplant called for 204,000 new volunteers, an increase of 70 per cent on last year, to ensure that the nation's blood stocks are kept at a "safe'' level.

According to experts, people being busy and not hiving spare time, could be one of the reasons behind the drop as also a rise in tattoos and exotic travel, which could rule out donation in the short-term.

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