Funded research themes

These research themes have all been funded by the NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit (BTRU) in Red Blood Cell Products.

Maturation of reticulocytes to mature red blood cells

Led by Professors Anstee and Toye.

This research seeks to understand the process of how the newly made red blood cell turns into the mature red cell with its recognisable biconcave shape. This is important because the laboratory grown red blood cells are freshly made and most have yet to mature. This would make storage of the lab grown red blood cells easier and also help us isolate them more efficiently.

Increasing the yield of red blood cells

Led by Professor Ash Toye.

The methods that are currently used to grow red blood cells in the laboratory can produce around one or two teaspoons of blood (5mL-10mL). The body produces blood far more efficiently than we currently can in the laboratory. This research will explore ways to better mimic the process that naturally occurs in the bone marrow and improve isolation methods.

Immortalised cells

Led by Professor Jan Frayne (& formerly with the Late Professor David Anstee).

Our clinical trial will use stem cells from adult and cord blood but this process currently makes only small numbers of new red blood cells. An alternative approach is to create an immortalised adult cell line of a red blood cell precursor, that can then be induced to form red blood cells. These immortalised precursor cells have had a change made to them in their DNA to make them replicate indefinitely in the laboratory.

These cells could then be grown in bulk, and providing that they can be turned into red blood cells efficiently, may provide a new source of blood cells for very rare blood group types for whom conventional transfusion products are problematic because of supply shortage.

We have already made the first ever immortalised adult red blood cell line, which we have shown can be used to make adult red blood cells. The cells are identical to normal adult red blood cells in all tests conducted to date. However, further detailed testing is required of this and additional cell lines. We need to work hard to optimise the process before we can hope to make a cell line to produce cells suitable for patients.

Qualitative research study

Professor Julie Kent.

This small scale, qualitative research study generated new data on different groups’ views of the clinical application of red blood cells grown from stem cells obtained from adult donor blood, donated cord blood and immortalised cell sources.

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