Scientists at McMaster University have discovered how to make human blood from adult human skin, a discovery that could mean that people needing blood for surgery, cancer treatment or treatment of other blood conditions like anemia will be able to have blood created from a patch of their own skin to provide transfusions. Clinical trials could begin as soon as 2012. The study was published in Nature on Nov. 7,
Mick Bhatia, scientific director of McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and his team of researchers have also shown that the conversion is direct. Making blood from skin does not require the middle step of changing a skin stem cell into a pluripotent stem cell that could make many other types of human cells, then turning it into a blood stem cell.
“We have shown this works using human skin. We know how it works and believe we can even improve on the process,” said Bhatia. “We’ll now go on to work on developing other types of human cell types from skin, as we already have encouraging evidence.”
The discovery was replicated several times over two years using human skin from both the young and the elderly to prove it works for any age of person.
The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, the Stem Cell Network and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.
Response to the discovery of the ability to turn human skin into human blood has been enthusiastic.
“CIHR is proud to invest in the excellent research that is being undertaken by Mick Bhatia’s laboratory at the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University,” said Alain Beaudet, president of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
“The Bhatia research effort is building on significant findings in recent years, which have shown that human skin cells can be reprogrammed into pluripotent cells that have the potential to become all cell types.
“The pioneering findings published today are the first to demonstrate that human skin cells can be directly converted into blood cells, via a programming process that bypasses the pluripotent stage. Producing blood from a patient’s own skin cells has the potential of making bone marrow transplant HLA matching and paucity of donors a thing of the past.”
Christine Williams, director of research for the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute, saw the potential for cancer treatment.
“We are happy to be able to fund this important stem cell research which holds enormous promise for improved treatment of many types of cancer, including solid tumours and leukemias,” she said.
Cynthia Dunbar, head of the molecular hematopoiesis section of the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute said: “Bhatia’s convincing demonstration that skin cells can be directly converted to hematopoietic progenitor cells is exciting and will immediately change the paradigms regarding the best way forward for production of hematopoietic cells to be used in regenerative medicine and in the study of human blood diseases.
“Bhatia’s approach detours around the pluripotent stem cell stage and thus avoids many safety issues, increases efficiency, and also has the major benefit of producing adult-type l blood cells instead of fetal blood cells, a major advantage compared to the thus far disappointing attempts to produce blood cells from human embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells.”
Michael Rudnicki, director of the Stem Cell Network added: “This finding will no doubt be met with excitement in the research and medical communities.
“It’s been nearly 50 years since blood stem cells were first identified here in Canada and it’s fitting that this incredible new discovery should have happened here as well.”
Release date: November 7, 2010
Source: McMaster University