Man-made red blood cells trial plan
Man-made red blood cells are set to be transfused into humans within two years, it has been announced.
NHS Blood and Transplant said laboratory-produced red blood cells will be used in clinical trials in humans by 2017.
Dr Nick Watkins, NHS Blood and Transplant assistant director of research and development, said the intention is not to replace human donation, but to offer specialist treatment for specific patient groups.
"Scientists across the globe have been investigating for a number of years how to manufacture red blood cells to offer an alternative to donated blood to treat patients," he said.
"We are confident that by 2017 our team will be ready to carry out the first early phase clinical trials in human volunteers.
"These trials will compare manufactured cells with donated blood. Continued investment in research and development is critical to our role in saving and improving lives through blood and organ donation."
The project is one of eight goals of the 2020 Research and Development programme, which aims to develop transfusion, transplantation and regenerative medicine over the next five years.
Another area of research being carried out in collaboration with Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford universities is investigating using stem cells from adult and umbilical cord blood to create alternatives to donated blood, particularly those with complex blood types for whom it is difficult to find compatible donors.
Many of these patients will have conditions such as sickle cell anaemia and Thalassemia, which require treatment with regular blood transfusions.
Minister for life sciences George Freeman said: "These exciting and pioneering developments demonstrate the world-leading research being done by our NHS.
"We are now working on an ambitious programme to further improve our work with donors and patients."