Some patients have very rare blood groups which are poorly represented in the donor database of NHSBT. This makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to provide suitable conventional blood donations for their transfusion needs.
This is a particular problem for patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) because the proportion of NHSBT blood donors with a similar ethnic background is very low. An alternative approach to supporting these patients may be to grow better-matched red blood cells in the laboratory.
Professor Ashley Toye and his team have shown that it is possible to grow red blood cells in the laboratory from both donated blood and from umbilical cord blood cells. In conjunction with the NIHR BTRU in the Manufacture and Clinical Assessment of Cultured Red Cells this work is now being taken to the clinical evaluation phase.