Scientists from Scotland have been awarded an extra £2.5 million from the Scottish Funding Council to continue their work into the development of methods to create red blood cells (RBCs) from stem cells.
The research is being conducted by a number of Scottish universities, including Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh and Dundee, along with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS).
Dr Joanne Mountford from the SNBTS commenting on the news said: 'This funding will allow us to really start translating basic laboratory science into industrial processes'.
The researchers have previously shown that it is possible to produce RBCs from stem cells in the laboratory, but only on a small-scale. However, for their work to become truly groundbreaking they need to develop processes that would enable them to produce RBCs on an industrial scale. The Wellcome Trust funded this initial research.
If successful, the project has the potential to completely eliminate blood supply shortages in the future, as well as reducing the risk of transfusion patients acquiring infectious diseases from contaminated blood, which is already thankfully rare.
Mark Batho from the Scottish Funding Council told the Scotsman newspaper that they were 'delighted to provide funding for this groundbreaking project'. 'This exciting collaboration aims to provide a solution to a long-standing problem and one that touches many lives', he said.