A strange new development from the field of medical technology has proposed that by the year 2012, we will have the technology to turn our own skin cells into life giving blood cells. While this may sound like a useless and horrifying venture, the possibilities for cancer treatments are substantial. And perhaps most shocking, we may soon live in a world where blood donation is a thing of the past.
For years blood donation has been a serious concern for the medical field. Doctors and patients alike have always lived with the fear of tainted blood supplies, the availability of blood, the possibility of death due to complications with blood from donors, and other nightmares. But a new technology developed by researchers in Canada hopes to provide the public with a safe alternative to blood donation for cancer survivors as well as other uses when supplies are limited or not possible to acquire from other sources.
The new technique uses an advanced technique to convert skin cells into other types of cells. Thanks to previous research, the scientists were able to convert skin cells into stem cells making this incredible medical advancement available to researchers without the ethical concerns many have raised over stem cell research. And this newest advance hopes to actually allow scientists to grow skin cultures in a lab which are then converted into blood cells.
Essentially, the direction the research is hoping to go in doesn’t require someone take a large lump of their own flesh in order to have an adequate blood supply. Such a treatment would in many cases be worse than the disease it was attempting to cure. Instead, scientists hope to one day be able to take a small skin sample from patients and then reconstitute the cells grown from these originals in order to create blood for the masses. You may recall our piece on cell cultivation outside of the body and the miracles provided by T-cells able to be traced to a few cells from one woman though several tons of them exist in laboratories today.
This announcement comes months after an announcement by DARPA that it may be possible in the future to create safe and effective blood from a synthetic form of plastic substitute, but the synthetic blood is expected to be very costly. On the other hand, once the technique for skin cell blood conversion is adequately researched and developed, the cells involved may be able to create adequate supplies of blood from very little material and at only a fraction of the cost. The end result may be we as a society could no longer have blood drives where strangers donate blood to be pumped into the bodies of patients. The possibilities for scientific research are endless. And countless lives could be saved by this miraculous discovery. Will we one day live in a world filled with an endless supply of safe and transferable blood even in a world where donors no longer exist? With medical discoveries and breakthroughs such as these it seems only a matter of time.