Scottish bid to manufacture transfusion blood

Blood bag
Image caption The scientists aim to manufacture blood on an "industrial" scale

Four Scottish universities are working on a "ground-breaking" project to manufacture blood for transfusions.

The universities are working with the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service to generate red blood cells on a large scale for Scotland.

Scientists have said that the industrial generation of blood from stem cells would end current supply problems.

It would also ensure compatibility between donor and recipient.

The University of Glasgow, along with Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh and Dundee universities are working on the project, which has just been given £2.5m from the Scottish Funding Council.

Joanne Mountford, of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and the University of Glasgow, said: "This is not artificial blood. These are red blood cells - the same as those found in your body but made in a laboratory instead.

'Large scale' production

"This funding will allow us to really start translating basic laboratory science into industrial processes.

"One of the main challenges of this project is the very large number of cells that will be needed - therefore we will need to develop new bio-process and engineering solutions alongside the biology."

Dr Mountford said more than 10 researchers were involved in the project, which was started with a Wellcome Trust grant 18 months ago.

The new funding will address the issue of large scale production and "industrialisation" of the process.

"One of the reasons for shortages is not enough people donate. It would be great in the short term if more people donated blood while we worked on this alternative," she added.

'Long-standing problem'

The project, co-ordinated by the stem cell research team at the University of Glasgow, will include specialists from biochemistry, engineering and social science fields.

The funding, which is over five years, will support three posts at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities and contribute towards two further posts at Dundee University and the Innogen Centre within Edinburgh University.

Mark Batho, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: "The funding council is delighted to provide funding for this ground-breaking project.

"This exciting collaboration aims to provide a solution to a long-standing problem and one that touches many lives.

"If successful then this will not only be of great benefit for people in Scotland but has the potential also to deliver significant economic gain."

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