Real-Life True Blood Might Be Used in Trial Transfusions by 2016

Researchers in the U.K. have created the first man-made red blood cells of high enough quality to be introduced into the human body

Photo: Pulse/Corbis

The premise of the HBO show and book series True Blood revolves around a technological breakthrough: scientists figure out how to synthesize artificial human blood, which, as an ample new source of non-human food, allows vampires to "come out of the coffin" and announce their presence to the world. 

Now, researchers have announced such a breakthrough. A team in Scotland made the first artificial blood that they say is suitable for transfusion into a human body. While the man-made blood likely won't be standing in as any vampires' beverage of choice (so far as we know...), it does have application in hospital settings, where it could eventually be used as a plentiful, affordable and disease-free supply for blood transfusions. 

Here's Forbes with a description of how the team created the blood: 

The artificial blood was derived from stem cells that have been made from an adult donor’s skin or blood. These donor cells are genetically rewound to become induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which have the potential to develop into any of the body’s 200 tissues.

The iPS cells are cultured for a month in a chemical environment, similar to that found in bone marrow, that encourages them to mature into red blood cells. Up to half of them do so. Standard techniques, such as centrifuging, are then used to separate the artificial blood from other cells.

The blood can be manufactured to be exclusively type O negative—the "universal donor" type possessed by only seven percent of people, Forbes says. That way, doctors wouldn't have to deal with sorting out different types for different patients. And while donated blood has a hodge-podge of young and old cells, manufactured blood can contain only new cells.

Clinical trials are scheduled to begin in 2016 or early 2017, the researchers told the Telegraph. However, the team still needs to sort out challenges associated with scaling their method up to an industrial level before blood can be churned out in a large-scale True Blood-like fashion. 

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