Researchers at US firm Advanced Cell Technology claim to have created a large number of red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells. They say that they can generate 10 to 100 billion red blood cells from a single six-well plate of stem cells. Using a cell line with an O- type would mean that the “universal donor” blood could be given to anyone.
The report was pre-published ahead of print in the online journal Blood (which may be the best name for a journal, ever).
This would be a huge boon to medicine. There’s been some work done with artificial blood, but it simply doesn’t work as well as the real stuff. (I’m a regular blood donor and I would dearly love to stop being stuck with big needles every few months in the name of civic responsibility.) If they can produce blood cells in quantity, it might open up new lines of research for creating things like liver cells, too.
(Incidentally, until blood is rolling off the assembly line you might want to donate too. Call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE in the US or contact your local branch of the Red Cross to set up an appointment.)