20 March 2023

The first volunteers have been treated with laboratory grown red blood cells in a pioneering UK project, it has been announced.

Two volunteers have so far received trial transfusions, NHS Blood and Transplant announced.

Yvonne Smith, aged 69, received two transfusions from the same donor in a blinded study. One treatment was a direct transfusion of the donor’s cells, the second a transfusion of cells generated in the laboratory from the donor’s stem cells.

Scientists working on the project are seeking to compare the behaviour of the laboratory-grown cells with cells used in normal donations, checking for safety and unexpected benefits or side-effects. NHS Blood and Transplant announced the trial, known as RESTORE, last November.

If successful, the trial will open up new sources of blood, especially for conditions where services struggle to access enough donated blood, such as for sickle cell treatment.

Co-Chief Investigator Professor Cedric Ghevaert, Professor in Transfusion Medicine and Consultant Haematologist at the University of Cambridge and NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “This clinical trial is ground breaking because it is a first time we are producing red cells in the laboratory in such a way we can compare how they behave after transfusion compared to standard donated red cells.

“We are immensely grateful to our trial participants. Without them, this clinical trial would never see the light of day.”

Ms Smith was previously a blood donor until she was treated for breast cancer in 2014.

She said: “I thought ‘what else can I do?’ I ticked a box and put my name forwards for research. I always wanted to be a nurse so it felt normal to help. Years later I was asked about taking part in the RESTORE trial.

“I would encourage anybody to do it. There’s nothing to fear. You are just getting a little bit of blood and it’s going to help other people.

“I know the research could help people with sickle cell and other diseases where it’s difficult to find matching blood. Otherwise, those people have a raw deal.  So why wouldn’t you do it? I hope just hope some good comes from it.”

Source: NHS Blood and Transplant

Link: https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/news/one-of-the-first-people-to-have-a-transfusion-of-lab-grown-red-blood-cells-says-why-wouldn-t-you-do-it/

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