MASS production of platelets is now one step closer, thanks to a team of researchers who have discovered a new method of creating platelet-producing megakaryocytes (MK) from stem cells.
The researchers from the National Health Service (NHS) and the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, described how they used three transcription factors, GATA1, FLI1, and TAL1, to reprogramme human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). This is a process called forward programming that allows the hPSCs to transform into MK much faster than in the earlier, directed differentiation, method. The researchers noted that forward programming was a much more efficient and less laborious way of creating MK.
“Critically, the forward programmed MK matured into platelet-producing cells that could be cryopreserved, maintained, and amplified in vitro for over 90 days showing an average yield of 200,000 MK per input hPSCs,” explained Dr Cedric Ghevaert, Department of Haematology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
The next step for the team is to improve laboratory culture systems so that the MK can begin producing the all-important platelets for transfusion, something the team is already working towards by developing bioreactors to help with increasing the scale of production of platelets. The benefits of this kind of mass production are multifaceted: it could not only relieve healthcare systems from the problem of supply and demand, but also develop a product more effective than platelets from blood donations that carries no risk of infection.
Dr Ghevaert commented: “Making MK and platelets from stem cells for transfusion has been a long standing challenge because of the sheer numbers we need to produce to make a single unit for transfusion,” adding that the results of the study were “a major step forward towards our goal to one day make blood cells in the laboratory to transfuse to patients.”
According to NHS Blood and Transplant, around 60% of platelet transfusions are used in the treatment of cancer patients whose bone marrow has been damaged by the disease and chemotherapy, thus reducing their ability to produce platelets. This demand is expected to rise as a result of an ageing population.
Dr Cedric Ghevaert, Department of Haematology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.