Scientists have turned human stem cells into “glow in the dark” red blood cells, which they claim will soon help them to create mature, transfusable, life-saving blood.
An international team, led by Monash University, has modified a human embryonic stem cell line to glow red when the stem cells become red blood cells, the latest edition of the Nature Methods journal reported.
And, according to the scientists, they are now a step closer to making fully functional red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells.
Whilst human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have the potential to turn into any cell type in the body, it remains a scientific challenge to reliably turn these stem cells into specific cell types such as red blood cells.
According to the scientists, the development of the ErythRED embryonic stem cell line, which fluoresces red when haemoglobin genes are switched on, is an important development that will help optimise conditions which generate these cells.
“Not only will the ErythRED cell line lead to more efficient creation of red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells, but these cells are a crucial tool for monitoring the behaviour of the cells when transplanted into animal models,” lead scientist Prof. Andrew Elefanty said.
Added team member Prof. Joe Sambrook: “The elegant work of the group unlocks the entrance to the long sought and elusive differentiation pathway that leads to expression of adult haemoglobin genes.”