Blood and your heart are very important aspects of your body that are essential for your survival. Unfortunately there are numerous diseases and physical complications associated with injury that can jeopardise their effectiveness and functionality. What if there was a way that we were able to replace these effectively when damaged? Two recent breakthroughs might allow blood and heart tissue to be mass produce.
Though the Red Cross Australia Blood Service gets approximately 1.4 millions donations per year, that is simply not enough for the 1 in 3 who need blood donations each year. What if we were able to produce any of the 8 major blood types on demand and eliminated the delay of finding a match and risk of graft versus host disease? Well researchers from the University of Bristol have be able to do such a thing. They have developed a line of immortal stem cells that can be used to mass produce artificial red blood cells (RBCs) when needed. Stem cells are pluripotent which means that they can turn into any cell needed. The particular cell line used for artificial RBCs are called ‘erythroid’ stem cells and gets its name from the process of RBC production. Currently, RBC products for transfusions are created using donor stem cells; resulting in about 50,000 RBCs from one donated stem cell. Unfortunately a bag used for transfusions can have up to 1 trillion RBCs so the creation of an alternative is essential. That’s where the Bristol Erythroid Line Adult (BEL-A) cells come in.
The ‘immortal’ cells are able to create RBCs indefinitely and this was done by capturing the adult stem cells early on in their development. This is massive because it doesn’t put any limitations in the duration of viability as well as quantity of production. The concept is similar to that of HeLa cells; an immortal cell line of cancerous cells used for research purposes collected in the 1950s. An even more impressive aspect of this breakthrough is that the stem cells are collected from normal blood donated products, meaning that the process of donation will be the same but the end use and application of the sample will vary; changing nothing for the people donating blood. Though amazing, clinical trials on human patients will still need to be performed to assess the actual viability and application of this new line of cells. Early trials though will be commencing at the end/beginning of next year so that is something exciting to look forward to. If you thought this was impress though, you should hear about our new-ish type of heart tissue using nothing other than spinach.
Approximately 45 thousand individuals die from cardiovascular disease per year and this isn’t even though only disease that can cause damage to your somewhat delicate heart. Though we have some forms of artificial vasculature, it is difficult and not as effective as a biotically produced tissue sample. That’s when spinach comes in; A three way collaboration between the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro and Worcester Polytechnic Institute might be changing it up. The vasculature of human tissue is quite similar to the xylem and phloem tissue systems of plants, and scientists are using this to their advantage. Spinach leaves were removed of their plant cells to leave a ‘barebones’ framework of cellulose. This frame was then ‘seeded’ with cardiac muscles cells or cardiomyocytes which are the cells responsible for the beating of your heart. Fluids and microbeads (representing nutrients) were flushed through the system to mimic the arterial system (not venous) of human tissue. And it worked!
It worked as much as they could hope for with researchers saying that they were excited but still had a long way to go before this became an option for people suffering for cardiac muscle damage. Researchers are also excited about tweaking the structure of a large range of pre-existing, mass produced plants for other tissue engineering issues. Tests of this idea had already been done with sweet wormwood, peanut hairy roots and parsley. Engineering different plant species for different tissue or cell type damages could be the breakthrough needed to save millions; instead of trying to address the limitations of synthetic production, let’s just use mother nature to our advantage. In April, the technology and primary results will be presented at the National Academy of Inventors inaugural Student Innovation Showcase.
In the previous article, we talked about how to boost your bodies ability to repair damaged sustain it hopes of becoming like Logan aka Wolverine. These two breakthroughs however might lead to the complete repair of someones body through the readily accessible supplies of artificial blood and varying tissue types. This is some really exciting stuff that is going to save some many people in this crazy world and I look forward to seeing how this technology develops to save even more.