The patient’s identity and gender are confidential, but his or her blood is at the center of an experiment that could transform medicine. He or she suffers from aplastic anemia, a condition that prevents the patient from producing enough blood cells, including platelets, the tiny cells that help blood clot. The patient also experiences platelet transfusion refractoriness, meaning the body rejects blood from most donors.
At a lab in Kyoto, Japan, scientists are running a pioneering clinical trial to treat this singular patient with a long-sought goal: artificial blood. Led by Dr. Koji Eto and a team at Kyoto University’s Center for IPS Cell Research and Application, the study aims to assess the safety and efficacy of platelets engineered in a lab out of a special type of stem cell. If successful, the research could pave the way for larger clinical trials and, ultimately, the broad use of lab-made blood.
While scientists have developed backups for most parts of our bodies—from prosthetic limbs to titanium teeth implants—the production of artificial blood has eluded them. Now, helped by advances in stem-cell research and interest from investors, scientists are closer than ever to coming up