George Daley's research team at Boston Children's Hospital has, for the first time, generated blood-forming stem cells in the lab using pluripotent stem cells, which can make virtually every cell type in the body.
The advance opens new avenues for research into the root causes of blood diseases and ways to create immune-matched blood cells, derived from patients’ own cells, for treatment purposes.
“We’re tantalizingly close to generating bona fide human blood stem cells in a dish,” said Dr. Daley, “This work is the culmination of over 20 years of striving.”
Although the cells are a mix of true blood stem cells and other cells known as blood progenitor cells, they are capable of generating human blood cells when put into mice. The researchers' ultimate goal is to make true blood stem cells in a way that is practical and safe, and to introduce gene-editing techniques to correct defects before blood cells are made.
The breakthrough would also potentially mean a limitless supply of blood for patients needing transfusions, by taking cells from universal donors.