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Stem cells used to produce blood platelets

Scientists have for the first time created platelets by reprogramming stem cells derived from adult cells, offering the potential for a renewable supply.

Researchers at the Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application at Kyoto University in Japan presented data at a meeting of the American Society of Haematology, showing they were able to create the cells in the laboratory and confirming they had the same life span as normal human platelets when infused in mice.

The next step will be to conduct a trial to determine whether our platelets can function in the human body, said Dr Koji Eto, professor at the Kyoto centre and senior author of the study.

When first discovered in 2006, Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, looked like a perfect solution to the ethical debate over the use of embryonic stem cells, but the process of producing non-mutated cells has proved challenging.

Blood platelet shortages will be eliminated

The limitation in using stem cells to produce platelets has been the ability to find a method that creates a large number of high-quality, functional platelets.

The Japanese researchers created an immortalised megakaryocytic cell line by over expressing c-MYC and the BMI1 gene (essential for the prevention of senescence), which then generated functional platelets in vivo once the over expression of those genes was turned off.

Their work has the potential of marching us forward to a day when we might to able to eliminate blood platelet shortages, said Dr Charles Abrams, ASH secretary and associate chief of haematology/oncology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

(Reuters Health, December 2011)

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