Stem cells could end blood platelet shortage
Blood platelets produced from embryonic stem cells have been used to repair damaged tissues in mice.
Platelet transfusions are often given to patients following transplant surgery or cancer treatment. Platelets are vital to the process of blood clotting and so help to repair tissue damage and prevent internal bleeding.
However, platelets taken from blood donations must be used within seven to 10 days. As there is a constant demand for platelets, this can cause shortages. The new research may provide an unlimited source of platelets than can be produced on an industrial scale.
The platelets look and function the same way as ordinary ones. Crucially, they were found to form blood clots in mice.
The stem cells used to make the platelets were taken from spare IVF embryos. This method is controversial because it involves the use of human embryos. However, it may be possible to use another stem cell type called induced pluoripotent stem cell (iPSC). These cells can be taken from the patient's skin cells and changed into other types of cell.
The use of iPSCs has been linked to an increased cancer risk. But platelet treatments would avoid this because platelets do not contain genetic material.
Find out more about mice and stem cell research here.